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  • December 11th, 2018

    reCAP :: Blackberry Smoke :: 2018.12.07 :: The Capitol Theatre

    Words by Ryan Hall
    Photos by Geoff Tischman

    When I found out I was going to be writing a reCAP for the Blackberry Smoke show at the Capitol Theatre, I was excited to be sure. I’d heard a few of their songs – “Waiting for the Thunder” and “Nobody Gives a Damn” to name a couple. But honestly, I wasn’t really familiar with their body of work. So, I chose to go into the show unspoiled.

    But I did want to know a little about them. So, I started digging into their biography a little bit. And I learned three things that blew my mind.
    – Blackberry Smoke front man Charlie Starr is an Alabama native (not unlike yours truly.)
    – Their first record label was Bamajam records. A record label that started as a result of the Bamajam country music festival near Dothan, Alabama about ten years ago. Dothan is the town where I used to live before moving to New York.
    – AND their manager is a Dothan, Alabama native.

    I couldn’t help but think “is this going to be a taste of my Southern home in New York?” It took about 30 minutes into Smoke’s set before I knew how right I would be.

    Before I speak about Smoke’s performance, I have to give a big shoutout to the opening band from Atlanta called Brother Hawk. I’d never heard of them before, but I dug their show hard! Hawk is a four-piece blues-rock band featuring Allan Carson on Drums, James Fedigan on Bass, Nick Johns-Cooper on keys, and their lead guitarist and front man J.D. Brisendine.

    I got to the Cap about 10 minutes into their set, so I didn’t get a chance to hear the entire thing. But what I heard was a band who is heavily influenced by the legendary Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble.

    Especially Brisendine! Unlike SRV who always played a Stratocaster, J.D. attacked his black Gibson Les Paul like SRV himself. But the most beautiful thing about their set was after they took their final bows. The guys in the band all helped strike their own gear. They helped carry off amps, and they helped to break down the drums and keyboards. This is something you don’t usually see, and it was so cool. This is a band who will have a full road crew one day very soon. But they don’t forget their roots. Watch out for Brother Hawk!

    Now, for the main event. Personally, Friday was an emotionally draining day for me. And my soul needed the respite of a couple hours of killer live music just a 10-minute walk from my apartment. Like I mentioned earlier, I wasn’t incredibly familiar with Smoke’s catalog. I heard their duet they did with the late Gregg Allman – the gorgeous song “Free on the Wing.” But not much else. For the first half-hour of Smoke’s set, I found myself feeling incredibly emotional. I was getting choked up and I couldn’t figure out why. You’ll have to wait a few paragraphs before I’ll tell you.
    Blackberry Smoke consists of Brit Turner on drums, his brother Richard Turner on bass and vocals, Paul Jackson on guitar and vocals, Brandon Still on keyboards, and lead vocalist and guitarist Charlie Starr.

    Quick observation before I go on, both Turner brothers wear some epic beards! Especially Richard! For a hot second, I thought he was Dusty Hill from ZZ Top. Or maybe Leland Sklar. Seriously, google Leland…dude has a Gandalf-level beard. You know, apart from being one of the finest bass players in history… But I digress.

    A few times during the show, the interplay between Starr’s and Jackson’s guitar work reminded me of some of the duel-lead guitar work of the Allman Brothers. Truthfully, I can’t help but think Smoke has spent a lot of time on some of the early Allman Brothers material.

    I want to speak a little about Charlie Starr. He plays phenomenal lead guitar. He plays a mean slide guitar. He’s got stage presence for days. And he’s a terrific singer. He just has “it.” He’s not a large man at all, but he brings a big presence to the stage.

    The first half of their show, they featured well-known songs like “Fire in the Hole”, “Nobody Gives a Damn”, “Crimson Moon”, and “Good One Comin’ On.” But things got really juicy about midway through their set.

    They just started jamming. The jam started with a bass lick from what I’m pretty sure was a Herbie Hancock song called “Watermelon Man”. A couple minutes later, Starr and Jackson go into a lick from the Allman Brothers’ “Blue Sky” – the iconic lead guitar duel between Duane Allman and Dickie Betts. And this leads directly into a cover of the Beatles’ “Come Together!” And that leads directly into Smoke’s song “Sleeping Dogs.”

    From Jazz Fusion, to Blues, to Southern Rock, to straight ahead rock – that was my favorite sequence in the entire show! Now, as I said before, from the opening notes of “Fire in the Hole” through the first 30 minutes or so of their set, I found myself feeling incredibly emotional. And I wasn’t sure why. But like a runaway bulldozer, it hit me!

    With all the connections between the band and my native home, playing a show at my new and adopted home, that entire show and entire experience was like a warm two-hour long hug from back home.Thank you, Blackberry Smoke, for a night I needed so badly! Thank you, Capitol Theatre, for giving me the opportunity to reCAP the amazing show. And thank you music for never failing to be that warm hug I so need at just the right time.