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Blackberry Smoke's feeling the heat with latest album

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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In the midst of its biggest headlining tour to date, Blackberry Smoke is certainly feeling the heat of momentum these days.

But it also took awhile for that southern rock troupe -- which preforms Saturday night, March 7, at the Fillmore Detroit -- to catch fire.

"It's been a slow build, a slow process," says frontman Charlie Starr, who co-founded the group during 2000 in Atlanta. "I talked to a friend from another band years ago, and he says it takes so long to go from zero tickets to 500 tickets, and then 500 and above happens very quickly. And I think he's right; we did 12 years of zero to 500, then before you know it we're selling a few thousand, so it's good.

"And in Europe all of a sudden it exploded out of nowhere, which was really a pleasant surprise. We were just there last October, and they want us back already in the summer. We didn't expect that."

The burgeoning popularity certainly put some steam behind "Rounding All the Roses," Blackberry Smoke's fourth album and its first for a new label (Rounder Records) after good buddy Zac Brown's Southern Ground went out of business. Produced by fellow Atlanta denizen Brendan O'Brien, the set debuted high on both the Billboard Rock (No. 7) and Country (No. 1) album charts, and Starr says he sees fans of both styles in Blackberry Smoke's crowd.

"For the most part I think people understand that we are pretty much a rock 'n' roll band," says Starr, 40. "But, y'know, you've got (Led) Zeppelin and the (Rolling) Stones, who obviously were rock 'n' roll bands that could play a country song. Any type of bands like ours embrace traditional music. So if we play a country song, if we play 'Yesterday's Wine,' we play it very traditionally, and people get that -- and still understand we're playing it as a rock band."

In fact, Starr says, he'd just as soon keep Blackberry Smoke out of what he thinks is a convoluted country market at this point.

"I think a lot of younger people maybe are confused about what country music is, and far be it from me to try to figure that out," he explains. "They might really love Brantley Gilbert but not love Merle Haggard, which I don't understand -- and I never will. Maybe I'm an old man now and not meant to understand it.

"But I don't think we share any fans with Florida Georgia Line, to be honest with you. If we do, that's fine. I'm not trying to tell anybody what they should and shouldn't like. But I don't think people who like pop music would care for our music that much, and that's fine with me, too."

Blackberry Smoke, the Temperance Movement and Leon Virgil Bowers

Saturday, March 7. Doors open at 7 p.m.

The Fillmore Detroit, 2115 Woodward Ave.

Tickets are $25-$35.

Call 313-961-5450 or visit www.livenation.com.

Web Site: www.livenation.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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