Like An Arrow
Reviewed by: Jane Roser
When a band meets up for practice and winds up unintentionally recording a thrilling new album instead, you’ve hit a new level of awesome.
Recorded at The Quarry Recording Studio outside of the group’s native Atlanta, Like An Arrow is the culmination of 15 years of blood, sweat and dusty road-worn tears. It’s also the first back-to-back record the band has ever released since they normally take long breaks in-between albums.
After the huge success of last year’s chart-topping Holding All The Roses (it debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Country Album chart), rockers Blackberry Smoke decided to take control and self-produce their fifth full-length album with producer Billy Bowers (AC/DC, Train, Pearl Jam) at the helm. They even scored a guest appearance by Smoke fan Gregg Allman on the closing track “Free On The Wing”-perhaps a subtle ode to “Midnight Rider”, a tune which tends to comfortably shimmy it’s way into several live Smoke shows.
Many songs here have a furious, smoldering sound to them-as if a grounded lightening rod was struck and scorched the earth beneath it. “Waiting For The Thunder” is a cynical politically-themed tune with a killer guitar solo which cuts through the middle of the song like a chainsaw through butter. A Smoke album usually has at least one reference to shotgun shacks and bill collectors which “Let It Burn” delivers it with witty bite as lead singer/guitarist Charlie Starr laments “If I had a dime for every time/I said I’s fixin’ to leave this place/It would help me buy the gas I’m about to pour on everything I’d see/I can’t be sentimental when it don’t mean nothin’ to me” and “If it weren’t for bad luck I wouldn’t have no luck at all.” Whoever shouted “Yeah!” at the end (I’m guessing either guitarist Paul Jackson or drummer Brit Turner) adds a touch of outlaw to perfectly bookend the song (bassist Richard Turner and keyboardist Brandon Still round out the five-piece group).
Never one to shirk at having a bit of fun with double entendres within a saucy song, Blackberry Smoke offer up the album’s sexually charged “What Comes Naturally” to add a bit of playfulness and balance out the album’s intensity declaring “Hey pretty baby, you’re my queen bee/Come and rub your honey all over me.”
The nifty ’70s throwback “Believe You Me” is swimming in so much funk and swagger it could be the next theme song to “Shaft”, but it’s the nostalgic family ballad “The Good Life” that gives the record it’s heart and soul. Reminiscing about the simple life lessons his dad taught him, the storyteller conveys how he was taught to overcome adversity and find the strength to pull himself up after falling down. It’s a lovely song that emotes sentiment, faith and family ties. If I took away anything, it’s that you must “Always look a man right square in the eye” and “Don’t let the good life pass you by.”
For long-time fans and those just discovering Blackberry Smoke, Like An Arrow delivers up old friends, new beginnings and the cojones to keep on taking chances while still staying true to themselves.