Blackberry Smoke's "The Southern Ground Sessions" EP is five versions of songs from the band's recent "Find a Light" album, along with a cover of Tom Petty's "You Got Lucky," which also features vocalist/violinist Amanda Shires. The project takes its name from the Southern Ground studio in Nashville, and this band, which can ramp up its music to Southern rock power - especially in concert - takes a few moments to quiet things down.
Shires also features into the jangly "Let Me Down Easy," while Oliver Wood (of The Wood Brothers) contributes to "Mother Mountain." Like many of the selections, one can hear the band counting down the start to "You Got Lucky." Whereas Petty's original is saturated in Los Angeles studio sheen - yet still sonically compelling - Blackberry Smoke's take is far sadder. It's Shire's sorrowful playing that makes it sound so doggone forlorn. "Mother Mountain," with Wood's singing help, shines with shimmering vocal harmonies. A novice might see Southern rock as little more than dueling lead guitars and anti-Neil Young sentiments, but Blackberry Smoke realizes it's all about the singing and the song.
Being that there is relatively little new music on "The Southern Ground Sessions" EP, it's hardly an essential purchase. However, had MTV still produced live music with its Unplugged series, this session would have perfectly fit that mold.