Blackberry Smoke a flashback to southern rock’s heyday on ‘You Hear Georgia’

Southern rock isn’t what it used to be. Since its heyday in the ’70s with the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Allman Brothers and ZZ Top, the genre has almost been absorbed by country.

You Hear Georgia
Blackberry Smoke
Thirty Tigers, May 28

Fortunately, there are still bands out there keeping it alive including, since 2001, Blackberry Smoke. While its albums do appear on both the country and rock charts, it’s southern rock through and through. This band even looks like it could be opening for the Marshall Tucker Band in 1974.

Seventh album You Hear Georgia is no different. If anything, it’s significantly more southern than its predecessor, 2018’s Find a Light, which had veered a bit into alt-rock territory.

Right off the bat, first track “Live It Down” opens with a grungy, bluesy, southern guitar riff and sets the tone for the album. In addition to the usual blues, country, and rock aspects you would expect, over the course of the song clear funk influences find their way in.

The title track, “You Hear Georgia,” follows the same musical theme but delves into the stereotypes about the south and southerners coloring perceptions just based on hearing a Georgia accent. It’s an unexpectedly poignant sentiment, especially in an era when political polarization and southern states are passing increasingly restrictive laws against things as basic as voting, creating more and more resentment.

“Hey Delilah” slows it down a bit, with the distortion on the guitars taking a backseat and the vocals taking on a more country vibe. “Ain’t the Same” takes it a step further, stripping out almost all the distortion and sounding almost like a pop country ballad. The tonal shift isn’t necessarily bad. “Lonesome for a Livin,'” which follows, is an old-school country ballad.

The southern rock is back for “All Rise Again” and quickly gone again for “Old Enough to Know,” a slow, pensive song about learning with age that defies genre labels. We’re back to southern rock for “Morningside,” and by this point the repeated tonal shifts are jarring. Simply switching the order of “Old Enough to Know” and “Morningside” would have created a better balance with the run of slower songs in the middle, bookended by the hard-rocking tracks.

The end of the album does rock decently hard. “All Over the Road” is aptly named as it’s a quality song for a long road trip that could lead to a lead foot, and “Old Scarecrow” is so reminiscent of the Allman Brothers it could pass for a deep cut.

Aside from the bout of jarring ping pong, You Hear Georgia is a throwback to an era of music that doesn’t get the respect or credit that it deserves. The beginning and end of the record feature some of the best modern southern rock around today. The middle goes back to a time before jingoism and the Nashville machine, when country music was based on stories of working people. If you like those things, you should give the album a listen. If you don’t, you should give it a shot anyway, because the problem may just be that you haven’t heard it done well enough before.

Follow editor Daniel J. Willis at

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