Editor’s note: With live music and concert reviews on hold due to COVID-19, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is focusing on how Georgia musicians are spending their time in our feature, Mic Check.
As the frontman and guitarist for Blackberry Smoke, Charlie Starr is noted for his oft-distinctive beard/soul patch and a voice made of whiskey and grit.
The Atlanta band has been storming stages with its Southern-slathered blues-rock — often with tour partners such as Gov’t Mule and Lynyrd Skynyrd — for nearly two decades and the quintet is still in its prime.
Their just-released EP, “Live from Capricorn Studios,” is the first album by a major artist recorded in the iconic Macon building in more than 40 years. Covers of songs by the Allman Brothers Band (“Midnight Rider,” on which he played Duane Allman’s iconic Les Paul goldtop), Wet Willie (“Keep on Smiling,” with Jimmy Hall) and the Marshall Tucker Band (“Take The Highway”), among others, showcase their reverence for musical history and has the added benefit of supporting the MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund.
Blackberry Smoke, which also includes Paul Jackson (guitar), Richard Turner (bass), Brit Turner (drums) and Brandon Still (keyboards) found the ability to work — in a social distancing manner — with producer Dave Cobb in Nashville on the follow-up to 2018’s “Find a Light” (stay tuned for a more in-depth feature with Starr about the band’s new album).
But as the coronavirus continues its rampage, touring will remain in flux (their “Spirit of the South” show with the Allman Betts Band and the Wild Feathers is still on the docket for Nov. 28 at the Fox Theatre, but nothing is certain at this point).
So for now, Starr is enjoying spending time with his family at his Brookhaven home and perfecting a new hobby that has family roots.
How have you been spending time these past few months?
It’s been great. I have a 6-year-old son and he has tons of friends in the neighborhood. Most of our time is spent in the front yard or on bikes in the street. This is the longest I’ve been home in 20 years. There was a brief window of time where I was really feeling a little desperate, like I’m not doing my job, which can cause some anxiety. But I’ve dipped a toe into gardening. My dad is a farmer (in Alabama) and he still has a garden every year there and it was omnipresent growing up, but I never really paid attention when I was young. Now I’ve planted a raised-bed garden and now we’re eating cucumbers and onions and radishes. It’s fantastic. I go out and think, I did this! I grew this!
What have you been listening to?
Jason Isbell’s new record (“Reunions”) is fantastic. Colter Wall, he’s a Canadian singer and Dave (Cobb) makes his records as well — he’s as authentic as they come. I have a huge vinyl collection. Most everything I listen to is not new and I find myself not seeking out new music. Here at home we listen to a lot of stuff that won’t upset children or puppies, like Miles Davis and delta blues, Hank Williams and John Coltrane. My son looooves the Beach Boys, that “Endless Summer” best-of is a winner at my house. My son isn’t old enough to really follow a trend, so he’s not susceptible to liking something because his friends do, but he latches on to what is really pleasing to his ear. He loves “Honky Tonk Women” (The Rolling Stones) and “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” (the Beatles). That proves that it’s really good music.
What do you miss?
I miss the guys in the band. Most of them live in Atlanta. But when you spend 20 years with people and most of it on the road, you laugh and joke, “Get me away from these guys!” But when you’re away from them, I miss my buddies and the daily routines of laughter and playing the music. When we went into the studio (to record the new album), playing the music was heavenly. I can only imagine when we finally step onstage, it’s going to be otherworldly.
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