Traverse City Record-Eagle

August 16, 2013

Southern rock band headlines show

By JAMES COOK jcook@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Blackberry Smoke singer Charlie Starr aims to represent the South on Sunday.

The southern rock band headlines a show at the Southside Hideout in Buckley.

“For years, Hollywood has a way of painting the South just one way — that we’re a bunch of backwards dumbasses,” Starr said. “I don’t ever get to watch much television, but it can be disturbing the way movies can paint a picture of the South. It’s kind of a bummer. It’s not all tobacco-spitting and racism. There’s a thick, underlying current of beautiful culture in the South.”

The band’s five members hail from Georgia, Alabama, Florida and South Carolina.

Starr said the South is often maligned, but he tries to appreciate the region’s highlights.

“When I got a little older, I was just fascinated listening to my grandmother talk about the past,” he said. “Just hearing about when she was a child in the Great Depression. She lived in eastern Alabama, very rural. Her dad was a hog farmer.”

One day, he asked her out of curiosity what they did with their garbage. She thought about it and told him they didn’t really have much. What little they had, they burned, but they grew and raised most of their own food, used cloth diapers, anything you bought from a store came in reusable burlap bags.

“I think a lot of songs on ‘The Whippoorwill’ kind of have that thread running through it,” Starr said of the band’s 2012 album. “I was thinking a lot about older Southern culture. But not just tailgates and Budweiser and ‘Hey, let’s party on the weekend.’ There’s beautiful culture in the South — and ignorance is not it.”

Gunnar and The Grizzly Boys and the Paula Nelson Band are openers for the $25 show, which starts at 6 p.m. Tickets are available at RPM Records, the Southside Hideout and startickets.com.

While the band is routinely referred to a “southern rock,” Starr said that moniker is a little worn out and used too liberally.

“There are a lot of people who might call themselves that,” Starr said. “It’s a funny thing. We don’t really call ourselves that, but we don’t have a problem being called that. I figure the bands that were called that initially were pretty damn great. To be compared to those bands — Marshall Tucker, Allman Brothers, (Lynyrd) Skynyrd — is great. They were fabulous musicians who wrote and recorded timeless music.

“There’s a lot of pop country music that throws that ‘southern rock’ term around pretty loosely. It just makes me laugh. I’m not trying to throw anyone under the bus, but call it what you want to, friend.”

Starr celebrates southern rock as a blend of a large variety of genres.

“The bands that were initially given that title, I figure they were so much more than that,” Starr said. “It could be so bluesy and jazzy and gospel and country. All those bands had those aspects. And they were being influenced by the great British rock and roll bands — The (Rolling) Stones, The Who and The Beatles. It’s just a big melting pot, musically. Genres have gotten so blurry these days. We’re just hanging in there and playing what feels good. We would probably look or feel silly trying to play something that we didn’t feel comfortable playing.”