There’s a line in the biography that the record company sent with “You Hear Georgia” that stood out – “since their formation in 2001” it says. And that always gets me, because Blackberry Smoke surely just emerged with “The Whippoorwill” in about 2013 and took over the world, right?

Well, no on both counts, but its true to say their rise in the course of 2014 was something to behold. From small venues to big clubs, and it was cool to join them on that journey, and its been fun since too. There aren’t many bands with such a strong run of records (joking aside the first two are belters, but I only found this out after the aforementioned third) and let me add here and now: the eighth is a cracker, it really is.

“You Hear Georgia” is more laid back, perhaps, less “Sanctified Woman” than “chilled out afternoon stroll”, but it’s the same band, the same great songs and the same class.

The first few seconds of “Live It Down” greet you like an old friend, like the actual proof that things are getting back to normal, and I’ll tell you this, if you aren’t singing the chorus by the second go around then Blackberry Smoke thank you for your interest and wish you all the best.

“You Hear Georgia” (the song) is the type of thing that convinces people the world over that the Deep South is the best place in the world, y’all – all the defiance of the likes of Skynyrd “you see Georgia, when you look down on me” spits (metaphorically) Charlie Starr, and you can almost hear the middle finger being raised.

On “You Hear Georgia” (the album) though, there’s some little differences. Maybe it’s the presence  of Producer Dave Cobb (a man who often finds a way to boil things down to their core) but this is arguably the album on which the true country influences really shine through. “Hey Delilah” is fabulous, but there’s Americana bands that would kill for the damn thing. There’s some proper singer/songwriter things too. “Ain’t The Same” has just a little bit of Tom Petty about its working class tale, and its glorious.

And the fact they are now a Premier League rock band (that and the fact they are damn good!) means that Blackberry Smoke can call on other stars. Jamey Johnston for example on the wonderful “Lonesome For A Living” where his cameo should win some best supporting actor thing and is enough to make Waylon Jennings fans get misty eyed, while elsewhere they can get Warren Hayes to rip a riff out of his back pocket on “All Rise Again”. Credit to Warren for making it more Govt Mule than Allman Brothers, and his vocals are supreme.

There’s some proper folk, tender moments too. Perhaps the best is “Old Enough To Know” and its reflection, and the line about “don’t ever trust a man with a nickname” is as brilliant as it is true. The diversity on the record is such that there’s a real blues crunch to “Morningside”, but listening to the album as a whole it seemed that the one thing lacking was an “Up In Smoke” style rabble rouser. “All Over The Road” rectifies that, no problem, and its going to sound incredible live.

As if to dot the I’s and cross the T’s on the record “Old Scarecrow” veers from back porch strum to full on rocker, and the hook line “I ain’t ever gonna change my ways, just make my stand for the rest of my days” seems to exemplify the spirit that runs through “You Hear Georgia”.

The trick Blackberry Smoke have always managed to pull off, though, is that they make this apply to everyone, everywhere. Great music does that, and make no mistake about it, this is another masterclass.

Rating 9/10

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