With Bob Weir

An Evening at TRI (2016)

This DVD, irreproachable at the level of the sound as at the level of the image, demonstrates three things. First, the idea of involving Bob Weir (a fouding member of the Grateful Dead) and Blackberry Smoke shows itself excellent. The intimacy of TRI Studios contributes to this fertile and successful collaboration. Noone wants to take all the credit and the music finds itself widely winning. Old Bob kept the shape, and his voice as well as his way to play guitar stay of a high level. By his presence, he brings an obvious coolness and the tunes in which he participates put on a timeless atmosphere. He stays in the background on the traditional « Colombus stockade blues » but he more than makes up on « Deep Elem blues » with a slide acoustic solo that fits perfectly with the « Southern groove » squeezed out by Blackberry Smoke. « Big boss man » comes back to the roots with a slowed down rhythm section (style « Redneck » of the Atlanta Rhythm Section) and a « laid-back » of Charlie Starr. We appreciate the long and delicious cover of « Big river » (of the big Johnny Cash) in a country-rock version with beautiful country solo of Charlie. Then, wink to the origins of the Rock with the « Promised land » of the dearly departed Chuck Berry. For the opportunity, Charlie Starr forks out a good solo. Lastly, « Up on cripple creek » benefits from a solo of guitar wah wah on behalf of Charlie and of a six string in unison finale. In the bonus, we can also enjoy a great « The weight » du Band. There is no doubt about it we spend an excellent moment!
Secondly, Blackberry Smoke isn’t a Southern rock band strictly speaking (in fact, it probably never was one) and seems to be closer from the West Coast than from the Deep South. The musicians excel at a softer register as testify of it « The whippoorwill » (a very seventies mind-blowing ballad, in the spirit of the « Stranger » of Johnny Winter) or the cover of the beautiful « Willin’ » of Lowell George. « Ain’t got the blues » draws on the side of the mid tempo Country and the melodic ballad, « One horse town » matches cleverly Bruce Springsteen and the Country music. Only on « Mississippi half-step uptown toodeloo » Charlie’s gang let the Southern spirit talk with kind of Dickey Betts guitar parts and a six-string at the third finale. Obviously, the choice of these titles is directed and Charlie and his buddies declare (in the short interviews which mark out this DVD) that Grateful Dead widely influenced their music. Now, an attentive listening of the discography of the band will convince the most sceptical. No, Blackberry Smoke don’t fall into the Southern rock !
Thirdly, Charlie Starr is a guitarist of an undeniable subtelty and a big sensibility. He also possesses a voice made for Country music and the « laid back » tunes. His concise soloes directly get to the point, based on a precise and fluid style, and Charlie drops them with a quiet air and with an impressive peace. Unmistakably, this guy has talent and class !
Here is thus a very beautiful DVD, testifying of a very interesting musical meeting, which will delight lovers of quiet music but not necessarily the Southern rockers. We are even entitled to a bonus ! We learn how Charlie, wanting to soften a pick of guitar with the flame of a lighter, almost set fire to the bus of the band. Quite an anecdote, no?

Olivier Aubry.

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