Blackberry Smoke has never been a band that stands still. Whether pursuing the dream by logging hundreds of thousands of miles on America's highways and abroad or relentlessly exploring the many facets of its most unique art form, the Atlanta quintet is always on the move. The songs on Blackberry Smoke's sixth album, Like an Arrow, due October 14, show just how far this authentic American rock band has come as the accomplished group of musicians tackles a diverse set of new ideas, sounds and territories, long after most bands with half the success might have settled into a well-worn groove."We're all likeminded in that we all want to explore," singer and principal songwriter Charlie Starr said. "There's just no way we could make the same record over and over again, though there are some fans who would like us to. That's just way too formulaic. If the Beatles or Led Zeppelin did that, we wouldn't love them as much." Like An Arrow continues the trend of sonic exploration established on the Blackberry Smoke's previous two releases, 2012's The Whippoorwill and 2015's chart-topping Holding All the Roses. It kicks off with the band's heaviest song to date and explores British rock before moving on to musical stops in places like Macon, Woodstock, Muscle Shoals and Tulsa as Starr and his buddies follow the ramblin' examples of timeless, authentic acts like The Allman Brothers Band, JJ Cale, The Band and others who define rock 'n' roll in all its many facets. "We just want the sound of the band to continue to grow and broaden. We're not trying to make a hip-hop record," Starr said with a laugh. "But there's so many elements to what people call rock. There's gospel and country and swing and blues. We're just trying to write songs that include all those different types of elements. It keeps it interesting for musicians and songwriters. You think, 'Well, I don't have a straitjacket on, I haven't painted myself into a corner, so I can try and just make the most of this art form.'" That's what Starr, Paul Jackson (guitar), Brandon Still (keyboards), Brit Turner (drums) and Richard Turner (bass) have been doing for 16 years now after forming in 2001. The quintet's blue-collar work ethic, road-dog attitude - the band averages 250 shows a year - and willingness to jam all night long have left Blackberry Smoke with a grassroots fan base that continues to grow show by show.
Holding All the Roses, produced by Grammy Award winner Brendan O'Brien, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Country Albums chart and No. 7 on the Rock Albums chart, proof of the band's universality. Praised by fellow artists as diverse as Dierks Bentley and ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons, Blackberry Smoke now delivers an album that should invite even more fans under its revival tent. Produced by the band with O'Brien's engineer Billy Bowers handling the recording, Like An Arrow sounds and feels exactly how the band wanted it to. "I think that it pleasantly surprised everybody involved," Starr said. "Not that I think working with a producer is a bad thing because it's a very good thing. But sometimes you just go with your gut and my gut told me, 'Let's make this record.' We stretched out on some songs, of course, and obviously the record is a bit more hi-fi than my homemade demos. But it really was going back to let's get in a room and play the music."
Like An Arrow leads off with "Waiting For The Thunder," a song driven by dark images, towering guitars and Still's storm-driven B3 Hammond organ. Starr says the song sets the tone for where the album lives. "It's dynamic and big, it's exciting," Starr said. "When we recorded it, from the very beginning, I felt like this was going to be the song that would lead off the record because it sort of stands alone as far as the level of excitement that the song throws at you, just right off the bat." The band continues its exploration of amped-up territory on the title track, a psychedelic blast of heavy metal transcendentalis