You’re probably wondering where the nominees list was for Country Perspective’s Group/Duo of the Year. Well in my mind this award has been decided since October. While this category was highly competitive last year, this year it was essentially a two-group race for most of the year until the fall when one group came along and released an album that easily bested every other group’s release for the year. This was a slam dunk, no-brainer. So it gives me great pleasure to announce that Country Perspective’s 2016 Group/Duo of the Year award goes to Blackberry Smoke.
This comes after they were nominated for this award in 2015, going against talented groups/duos like Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen and Turnpike Troubadours. But even if they had faced tough competition again this year I doubt they would have topped Blackberry Smoke’s efforts in 2016. In 2015 they released a pretty damn good album in Holding All The Roses. And much to my amazement and awe they managed to top it with the release of Like An Arrow. From beginning to the end this album blew me away and was easily one of my favorites of the year.
Keep in mind this is a group that has consistently churned out high quality music since their beginning. Every album of theirs has been good and they manage to add some sort of new wrinkle that impresses me. With this all of this in mind, I think I can say that Like An Arrow is arguably their best album yet. The group has always been grounded in that southern rock sound, sort of perfectly teetering between country and rock that’s appealing to both genre’s fans. That’s never been an issue with them. But on their last album I found the group didn’t quite have the edge I would have like to have heard, even though I still enjoyed the record. On top of that I was wanting to hear some new influences. Well they bring that edge with Like An Arrow and not only that there’s a palpably more soulful influence that helps the songs stand out even more.
I think one thing that you can definitely attribute this to is Blackberry Smoke electing to produce this album themselves, the first time in their career they’ve done this. As front man Charlie Starr said in an interview, this album was basically a “happy accident.” They just started making the songs and practicing them. Next thing they knew they had a new album. However they didn’t know who to tab for producer. But they did know what they wanted the music to sound like and therefore ultimately decided to do it themselves. This was a pretty excellent decision, albeit also a risk considering this is the first time they ever did it. But the best music usually gets made when risks are taken. While a super producer like Dave Cobb is great for most artists, some just know who they are and what they need to do. Blackberry Smoke is most certainly the latter, as their intuition and ideas work perfectly on this album.
Starr helped write every song on the album, with nine of them being solely written by him. That’s something I think that often gets overlooked by many with Blackberry Smoke. The writing has always been great from this group and it’s always mainly consisted from the group, with the talented Travis Meadows being the most oft outside co-writer. This has become more uncommon of artists nowadays, with many relying on songwriting committees, especially the biggest names on Music Row. Blackberry Smoke is the exact opposite. It speaks volumes how much craft they put into their songs. That’s why they’re one of the best in both country and rock today. While some wish in one hand and shit in the other, this band uses their hands to work and make great music.
Blackberry Smoke is really a shining example of what all bands should aspire to be. They’re self-made, independent, put on fantastic live shows around the world and have one of the most passionately dedicated fan bases you’ll find. They’ve never been close to being accepted as mainstream by the country or rock industry nor do they get significant airplay, yet Like An Arrow went #1 on the country albums chart, #1 on the folk albums chart and #3 on the rock albums chart. They’re a success because they have always done and continue to do things their own way. They said to hell with the system and have succeeded despite it. Like An Arrow encompasses all of these traits and attitude, which is why Blackberry Smoke is Country Perspective’s 2016 Group/Duo of the Year.