Southern rockers Blackberry Smoke open for ZZ
If you're the band opening for rock legend ZZ Top, there's got to be at least a momentary impulse to throw yourself facedown and holler: "We're not worthy."...
If you're the band opening for rock legend ZZ Top, there's got to be at least a momentary impulse to throw yourself facedown and holler: "We're not worthy."
Members of the Atlanta-based Blackberry Smoke, who will open for ZZ Top on Saturday night in Grand Forks, are relishing their opportunity to perform with the bearded icons.
"It is such an honor and a great opportunity which we definitely don't take for granted," said Charlie Starr, guitar and vocals for Blackberry Smoke. "It is such a learning experience watching them operate, watching them do what they do. They make so many people happy. They are a great band."
Blackberry Smoke has the sound and talent to make it a solid musical pairing. Still, the group is unfamiliar to lots of people who come to the concerts they open, Starr said.
"Those people never know what to expect," he said. "So many people come to the merch(andise) booth and say, 'I was so surprised.' They are pleasantly surprised as opposed to going to buy a beer while we're playing."
Even if you think Blackberry Smoke is unfamiliar, you may have heard their music. Their song, "Good One Comin' On," was featured in the Kevin Costner movie "Swing Vote," and their song "Up In Smoke" is in the EA Sports NASCAR '08 video game.
Bit of everything
The band includes brothers Britt Turner on drums and Richard Turner, bass and vocals, and Paul Jackson, guitar and vocals. They've been touring with ZZ Top since late September and will continue through Nov. 2. One critic described the group this way: "Mix together in a cocktail shaker Black Crowes, Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Buckcherry, and you get Blackberry Smoke."
The description fits, Starr said in an interview.
"I think it leaves out a little bit of the bluegrass and the honky-tonk element," he said. "That's part of it, too. But it's definitely not wrong."
Southern rock may not have the sway it did back in the day when ZZ Top and the Allman Brothers and Charlie Daniels were just making names for themselves, but it's still a force to be reckoned with. Blackberry Smoke showcases all its best aspects: smokin' guitars ("Freeborn Man"), soulful ballads ("Another Chance"), songs about bad hook-ups and good booze ("Son of Bourbon"), and more than a taste of countrified kick-butt rock ("Up In Smoke").
Some have called Blackberry Smoke one of the premier Southern rock bands and, in the last year, they've shared the stage with not just ZZ Top, but Lynyrd Skynyrd, Shooter Jennings, Cross Canadian Ragweed and more.
The band's first recording was "Bad Luck Ain't No Crime." Currently, it has a four-song EP called "A Little Piece of Dixie" available digitally. The full-length "Little Piece of Dixie" CD, recorded with producer Dann Huff (Keith Urban, Rascal Flatts), will be released early next year.
Starr said all the touring they do has brought the band members closer in many ways. He and Jackson have known each other for years. The Turners, of course, have the brother bond going. All played in other bands before they came together in this incarnation.
"We just wound up together in some strange sort of way," Starr said. "Being out on the road, you start to get sick of every little thing that everybody does. It's kind of like being married to three other people at once."
When they're not recording for Big Karma Records and Adrenaline Music Group or touring, they still find time to play bars and clubs, where, Starr said, they've been lucky enough to open for many of their heroes.
"We still slug it out wherever we can," Starr said.
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