This Album Changed My Life: Blackberry Smoke’s Charlie Starr On The Rolling Stones’ ‘Exile On Main Street’

25 November 2022 | 11:42 am | Mallory Arbour

‘Exile On Main Street’ was released in 1972

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Blackberry Smoke has become known for a singular sound indebted to classic rock, blues, country, and folk. Since 2001, the acclaimed American band – made up of Charlie StarrPaul JacksonRichard TurnerBrit Turner and Brandon Still– has independently released seven full-length albums, two live albums and six EPs.

Their most recent release the Stoned EP follows their album You Hear Georgia, which pays homage to the band’s deep respect for their Georgia roots and features special guests Jamey Johnson, Warren Haynes and The Black Bettys. Released in 2021, it peaked at #5 on the Billboard Country Albums Chart and contains Hey Delilah and All Rise Again.

In addition to their work as musicians, Blackberry Smoke remains committed to charitable work and has raised nearly $500,000 benefiting children’s cancer research.

We caught up with vocalist and guitarist Charlie Starr to find out what album changed his life.


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Blackberry Smoke’s Charlie Starr on Exile On Main Street by The Rolling Stones:

“When I was young, my Mom listened to the Rolling Stones quite a bit. Hot Rocks was a cassette that got plenty of play time in the mornings while we got ready for school and work. I found myself really drawn to side 2 of the cassette when it got into the late 60’s/early 70’s era of the band… especially Honky Tonk Women, Midnight Rambler and Brown Sugar

But it wasn’t until later that I was turned on to the album that would "change my life", so to speak, and that is Exile On Main Street.

A friend in high school gave me my first cassette copy of it. Who knows why certain pieces of music speak to us on such a level… I mean, if you listen to that record with ears that are searching for perfection, you won’t find it. If you are looking for “hit songs”, you probably won’t find those either (with the exception of Tumbling Dice, I believe.) Hell, the mix itself probably drives some producers and engineers crazy. It’s decidedly lo-fi and the vocals are pretty much buried in the mix. The drugs and debauchery are almost audible… a “feel”.

I felt like I had discovered a lifelong musical companion instantly. I’m not sure I know of another album that covers so much ground musically (perhaps Stephen Stills’ Manassas) yet still maintains an identity as a singular piece of work. That idea has been a profound influence on the music I love to make with Blackberry Smoke to this day. The Stones were probably the best example of songwriters that took the pattern of the song types and musical genres that influenced them heavily and expanded on it. I think Keith Richards said, “it’s all just one big song, we just reach up and grab a little piece of it." Adhering to a formula may be a recipe for success, and Lord knows that method has worked for decades in the music business, but it’s albums like Exile that stand taller than the pack for me.”


For more of our This Album Changed My Life series, go here.
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