For more than a decade, the Georgia-based rock band, Blackberry Smoke, has been slowly building an audience the old-fashioned way, by relentless touring. They play around 250 shows a year. Their third album is titled "The Whippoorwill" and reviewer Meredith Ochs says it's a perfect diversion for an election year.


MEREDITH OCHS, BYLINE: Do you love Southern rock, but prefer to keep politics out of your music? After all, Lynyrd Skynyrd's performing at the Republican National Convention this year and Hank Williams, Jr. recently trash-talked President Obama at the Iowa State Fair. So what's an apolitical fan of long-haired country boys to do? The answer is Blackberry Smoke.


OCHS: Like Skynyrd before them, Blackberry Smoke turns Southern music forms into radio-ready sing-alongs. Their big, bold guitars, honky-tonk keyboards and deep roots in blues, boogie and gospel all propel the nicotine-tinged voice of front man, Charlie Starr.

But the lyrics from their new album are introspective, examining themes of love and betrayal, family ties and growing old while you're still way too young. Starr, who wrote most of this material, crafts great thorny relationship songs, like this one about forgiving a girlfriend for a major indiscretion.


OCHS: On their new CD, Blackberry Smoke revisits the classic paradox of life in a small American town, the concurrent desires to stay and go, the conflicting feelings of loyalty and hopelessness and the realization that giving up your own dreams might mean that your kids have a chance at a brighter future. Some of these songs get to the heart of real issues in a way that politicians wish they could and in a way that's more convincing than anything that other Southern rockers are churning out in this election year.


CORNISH: The new album from Blackberry Smoke is called "Whippoorwill." Reviewer Meredith Ochs is a DJ and talk show host with Sirius XM radio.

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