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Blackberry Smoke are burnin' up the South

The Atlanta rockers hunker down with a piece of Dixie

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It's been a big couple years for Atlanta-based Southern rock/country band Blackberry Smoke. After sharing stages with idols and contemporaries from ZZ Top and Lynyrd Skynyrd to Shooter Jennings, they released their second full-length album Little Piece of Dixie last year to an explosion of support from CMT and the like, as well as serious music critics. They bring their genre-bending sound to the Pour House this Thursday.

Their lighthearted party-boy single "Good Time Comin' On" appealed to radio listeners who love opening verses like this: "Two packs of Shiner/Ninety-nine cent butane lighter/Lucky Strikes and a fifth of Patron/Throw in Ray Wiley Hubbard/Sing along to 'Redneck Mother'/Any blues I had before are gone/Another working week is over/No chance of staying sober/I could feel a good one comin' on."

While the guitars are rocking and it's squarely in Southern-rock mode musically, the lyrics are heavily influenced by that pop-country style of name-dropping and putting themselves in their blue-collar audience's shoes.

The five-piece band, all of whom sport long, '70s hair and wild facial hair, certainly look the part. And a few songs, like the slowed-down "Who Invented the Wheel," would fit right in on a Marshall Tucker Band record. But they are able to transcend that mode, mixing in more contemporary country styles easily, like on "Freedom Song," which starts out like old Skynyrd and ends up sounding like a heavy cover of a Big & Rich song but with a better guitar solo. Perhaps the least expected influences are early '90s rock and even a little grunge. On the hard-driving "Sanctified Woman," the Black Crowes, who are friends of the band, are the first group you think of.

Lead singer and guitarist Charlie Starr — he of the perfect Southern rock name — leads the group with his light, grainy drawl, sounding like a slightly chilled-out Chris Robinson. With Paul Jackson on lead guitar, Richard Turner on bass, Brandon Still on keys, and Brit Turner on drums, the boys are tight and controlled all the way through Little Piece of Dixie, leaving little room for serendipity but plenty of well-thought-out, perfectly executed solos. Expect their live show to allow more musical freedom. And bring your cowboy boots because this one will be a foot-stomper.

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