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DVD Reviews

Blackberry Smoke Live at The Georgia Theatre (Southern Ground)

I used to love going to the Georgia Theatre in Athens. I haven’t been down to visit since it burned and was rebuilt, but I hear it’s better than ever.

Blackberry Smoke has

become one of my very favorite bands over the past year, and apparently, I am only one of mil- lions who feel that way. And judging from this film, there are a helluva lot of folks at the University of Georgia who feel the same way. This DVD features great interviews and back- ground stories on each band member, and singer/guitarist Charlie Starr treats us to some fantastic solo acoustic music, just before we are taken front and center for the live and absolutely electric concert.

“Up in Smoke” rocks, from its opening that sounds reminiscent of “Whipping Post” on into it’s seriously rocking verses, it’s a great one. Equally great are crowd favorites “Like I Am” and their most popular song, the too much fun “Good One Coming On.”

Charlie dedicates “Ain’t Much Left of Me” to “all of the divorced people in the audience.” Listening to the words, I have decided to make this my theme song.

“Everybody Knows She’s Mine” segues into the Allman Brothers “Midnight Rider” and then into “I Know You Rider,” made popular by The Grateful Dead, among others.

The band treats us to a tour of their tour bus, showing off tour essentials like a Louisville slug- ger that they carry for “that person that yells “Free Bird” all night long.” One of the essential elements of the bus is, of course, the coffee maker. I can dig it.

“Freedom Song” is another fine tune, dedicat- ed to the military and the Navy Seals, and the gloves really come off when the band announces special guest, a bearded Jimmy Hall of Wet Willie fame, and they rock into “Country Side of Life.”

Zac Brown and Clay Cook join the band for a rocking “Restless,” firing the crowd up even more, if that’s possible. The guys drop it down for a beautiful tune called “The Whippoorwill,” the title song of their new album, is a song that Charlie wrote about his Grandmother. The band shows off there undeniable versatili- ty with their cover of the George Jones chestnut, “Yesterday’s Wine,” featuring Clay on pedal steel. Clay, now a member of Zac Brown’s band, is the nephew of Marshall Tucker Band singer Doug Gray, and has performed many times with the MTB, playing steel guitar reminiscent of Toy Caldwell. Fact is, Cook can play most any instru- ment, and play it well.

“Son of the Bourbon” is straight up country, Haggard meets Bocephus, with a bit of Skynyrd underscoring the melody, and “Dueling Banjos” opens into “Man of Constant Sorrow,” the blue- grass version, seguing into a Smoked and rocking version. It is pretty darn awesome alright. “Shake Your Magnolia” is another kickin’ song, and on ”Deep Elem Blues,” Jimmy Hall blows harmonica and Clay Cook whoops up on the gui- tar.

Of course, it doesn’t matter who sits in and jams with Blackberry Smoke, it is still the band that draws you in. Looking a bit like early seven- ties rockers and playing with a plethora of influ- ences that blend together in a way that is unique- ly Blackberry Smoke, these guys grab you by the short hairs, and there’s no escaping. But then again, who would want to escape. •

- Michael Buffalo Smith


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