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Blackberry Smoke
Blackberry Smoke returned to the road over the summer, including a stop in August at Ameris Bank Amphitheatre. (Photo by Perry Julien)

Atlanta Soundtrack: Blackberry Smoke, Alan Z (with Jason Chu) and India Arie

Blackberry Smoke: “Ain’t the Same”

Issued on Veterans Day this year as a tribute to those who have served, “Ain’t the Same” is a bittersweet reflection on what it means to be facing an unquiet present juxtaposed with more rose-tinted memories. That’s a message that may resonate with anyone reuniting with troublesome family over the holiday — or those whose hopes and dreams may have been squelched during the last two years of a shapeshifting pandemic. “Nothing’s really changed, but it ain’t the same” hits all of 2021’s notes plain and clear.

For the last 20 years, Blackberry Smoke has carried the baton passed on from other Southern-flavored rock acts like the Allman Brothers Band and The Band, and morphed it into something distinctly Atlantan. You Hear Georgia, recorded in Nashville and released this year, was their seventh album. It utilized the considerable skills of producer Dave Cobb, who has worked with soulful Americana stars Jason Isbell and Chris Stapleton.


Alan Z and Jason Chu: Crossing The Border (feat. Chow Mane)

Though the stylish and provocative new video from ATL’s Alan Z and Los Angeles’ Jason Chu just dropped last month, the song itself, “Crossing the Border,” comes from the duo’s album, Face Value, which landed this past May. (For more on the origins of their collaboration, check out our previous Atlanta Soundtrack coverage here.)

An Emory alumnus and a triple threat (actor, singer, rapper), Alan Z grew up in Maryland and Seattle before settling in the Peach State. He has been climbing and rhyming his way upward since the debut of his first EP in 2017. Additional special guest on this track is Charles Yan, aka Chow Mane, a San Francisco-based artist with a penchant for parody.


India Arie: “Strength Courage and Wisdom”

Born in Colorado to a professional singer and a former NBA basketball player parents, Grammy winner India Arie moved to Atlanta when she was 12, after her parents split up. She picked up songwriting as a college student at the Savannah College of Art and Design and then honed her craft as a captivating performer at the storied Apache Café (then Yin Yang Café).

This uplifting, soothing song can be found nestled on Arie’s hit debut album Acoustic Soul, which came out in the spring of 2001, went double platinum, and launched Arie into the celebrity stratosphere. The three qualities contained in its title have “been inside of me, all along,” Arie sings, thus equipping the listener in just under five minutes with everything needed to cross over into the new year. Whatever 2022 brings, our Vintage Track of the Week reminds us that we’ll have the tools we need to handle it: strength, courage and wisdom.