Just before Blackberry Smoke broke out on the national scene, Gregg Allman proclaimed “That band is gonna put Southern Rock back on the map.”
Blackberry Smoke will appear at the Cargo Concert Hall in Reno on Sunday, July 30. The Kenneth Brian Band opens at 8 p.m. Advance tickets cost $23
Blackberry Smoke started late 2000 when singer-guitarist Charlie Starr teamed up with the rhythm section brother tandem of Richard (bass) and Brit (drums) Turner. Paul Jackson (guitar and vocals) joined the band soon thereafter. Keyboardist Brandon Still came aboard about “six or seven years ago,” Starr said.
While no band wants to be categorized, the label Southern Rock is a natural for a rock band from Atlanta. Starr, who writes Blackberry Smokes songs, is well versed at the genre’s history.
“It evolved around the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd and then a later Marshall Tucker Band and Charlie Daniels Band, and then even much later Blackfoot, Molly Hatchet and Grinderswitch and bands like that,” Starr told Tahoe Onstage before its April 2016 appearance at Cargo. “The funny thing is, none of those bands sounded alike. I think with people back then, especially with the (Allman) Brothers and then with Skynyrd, it was these bands from the Southeast who were really free musically, especially the (Allman) Brothers.
“Their music encompassed so many genres. They played blues, jazz, gospel and country. It was all a mishmash and it was a laid back kind of vibe, too. It was a slow, Southern way of doing things. Then you take a band like Blackfoot, and it was a band like AC/DC.
“So as long as people keep that in mind, as long as they are putting a tag on us (it’s OK). We’re not going to make the same type of record over and over again. Every band, whether they come from Georgia or L.A., just wants to grow. At the same time, we didn’t plan it either. It’s just the way that we sound. When we first started playing, I thought we sounded like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers more than we did Skynyrd, but that’s just what I thought. And I also thought we’d sound silly if we tried to be a punk band.”
Presciently named, Blackberry Smoke has made a steady ascent in the music business.
“We cut our teeth playing honky-tonks and bars all across the world where it was always these smoky little dives,” Starr said. “It adds a leathery quality to your vocal chords and maybe toughens you up for marathon-type performances.”
With that in mind, Starr appreciates the opportunity to return to Reno and play in a smoke-free venue. The band recently released its fifth studio album, “Like An Arrow.”
The Kenneth Brian Band will be opening for Blackberry Smoke on Sunday when they play Cargo Concert Hall. In late May, the band released their latest studio album “With Lions,” which features Steve Ferrone and Scott Thurston of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers. Prior to this release, they spent two years on the road with multi-Grammy winner Lucinda Williams and opened several dates in 2016 for ZZ Top.