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Blackberry Smoke sets up in the Zac Brown orbit

For Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Friday, January 4, 2013

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Blackberry Smoke has released each of its three albums with a different record companies. But there's no question the Atlanta-based Southern rock quintet is happiest with is current situation on Zac Brown's Southern Ground label, which released the group's new "The Whipporwill."

"Y'know, Zac's a true music lover and appreciator," notes frontman Charlie Starr. "He's not jumping on these different artists like, 'OK, this could be the next Taylor Swift!' or 'This could be the next Jason Aldean!' The people he chooses to work with, there's some originality there, hopefully."

Starr, 38, says he and his group mates also appreciate the spirit de corps of Southern ground, which includes Brown and his bandmate Clay Cook co-producing "The Whipporwill," and Cook playing percussion throughout.

"Zac's vision is like the whole Capricorn Records or Motown thing," Starr explains. "It's like a little commune. We tour together and get together and write together. It's just very positive.

"And all of the artists on the label, we're all quite different -- and that's good. We wouldn't want a bunch of bands that sounded exactly the same. That would be boring."

If there's a downside to the Brown association it may be how busy it's kept Starr and company. With Brown's busy tour itinerary, Blackberry Smoke had just five days to record "The Whipporwill" in Asheville, N.C., which meant some pruning of the nearly two dozen songs Starr had ready for the album.

"Zac himself was like, 'Hey man, record all of them and we'll pick the 12 or so that should be on the album," Starr recalls. "And that's what we did. We made it through 17 in five days, and so then the task was pretty daunting. I was like, 'Leave it to me. I'll do this,' but then I felt like, 'These are my babies! They're all sacred!'

"It's got to be a committee effort in the end, and maybe with some insight from somebody who's not in the band. But," he adds with a laugh, "I still didn't really get any help. Everyone kept talking and talking, and I finally had to go, 'OK, OK, here's what I think,' and I went to the guys in the band and said, 'This is my opinion. Do you guys agree?' I felt like it was my decision, but I didn't make it all by myself if you know what I mean."

Blackberry Smoke and Drake White perform Friday, Jan. 4, at Saint Andrews Hall, 431 E. Congress St., Detroit. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20. Call 313-961-8961 or visit www.saintandrewsdetroit.com.

Web Site: www.saintandrewsdetroit.com

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