Meet Flambeau Fest headliner Blackberry Smoke

Halen Doughty
Blackberry Smoke

Plenty of phenomenal bands will take to the stage at the inaugural Flambeau Fest at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center next month, but none of them compare to headliner Blackberry Smoke. The southern rock group has topped charts in both country and rock categories, and their sound is unlike anything you've heard before.

Fans can expect to hear songs from all six of the band's albums, including their newest release “Like an Arrow,” which dropped last October. The lead singer and songwriter, Charlie Starr, draws inspiration from all over the place. As an avid music lover himself, he doesn't let a day go by without jamming to something. He gets down to anything that's good, saying the only kind of music he doesn't enjoy is bad music.

Their album “Holding All the Roses” debuted at number one on the Billboard Country Albums chart, and it came in at number seven on the Rock Albums chart. Starr said it's all about keeping things authentic for the fans and not being defined by labels.

"We just try to play honest music, and it's not really genre-specific," Starr said, "and it makes people happy, hopefully."

Guitarist Paul Jackson, keyboardist Brandon Still, bassist Richard Turner and drummer Brit Turner will join Starr on stage for a true southern rock performance. Starr said first-time fans can expect a loud, energetic show on Sunday as the band takes the stage among mega-rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd and Hank Williams Jr.

Starr said it's just five guys playing music they love, and hopefully everyone can get into it. They're looking forward to the outdoor festival with some slightly cooler temperatures (fingers crossed). Starr said playing outdoors allows fans to be more free and really get lost in the music.

Blackberry Smoke worked with a rock icon on their newest album. The late, great Gregg Allman makes an appearance on the song "Free on the Wing." Starr said he didn't realize at the time how sick the rocker was, as Allman never let it show when they were laying down the track.

"He was a really generous guy with his time. He was such a legend and so gracious," Starr said, "We are just so honored that he took the time at that stage in his life to come and give of himself like that. That's just incredible."

No two songs on the band's newest release sound alike. Some bring a louder, upbeat rock-and-roll vibe, while others have a more country feel. Starr said the variation of sound keeps the record interesting.

"It's good to try to bring something new so you don't have identical twins on a record, or triplets," Starr said. "But the song itself will sometimes dictate what it will sound like, production-wise."

The first song on the new release, "Waiting for the Thunder," kicks off with classic guitar riffs reminiscent of co-headliner Lynyrd Skynyrd before taking listeners on a musical journey complete with killer riffs and Starr's far reaching vocal range that's sure to have fans singing along.

A little more on the country side, the title track "Like an Arrow" has an old school southern feel that will definitely rock the house. "Free on the Wing," which features an appearance from Allman, gets off to a slower start with some serious keyboard action before crescendoing into a heartfelt rock ballad.

"I try to write a lot of different kinds of songs because otherwise it would really seem formulaic and boring to me," Starr said, "so I think we've succeeded in shaking it up each time and really making it a nice little journey."

It's safe to say music lovers of all ages and musical tastes will love Blackberry Smoke.

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