Bio & Info
Lead guitar/vocalist – Tim Rossi
Guitar/vocals – Rick Krasowski
Bassist – Brian Carpenter
Drums – Matt Anastasi
If there’s one thing Rickey Medlock can’t do, it’s sit still. The Blackfoot cofounder and Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist is constantly looking for ways to challenge his creative impulses, and his latest pet project has been to shepherd the next-generation incarnation of his beloved Blackfoot. Under Medlock’s steady guidance, the Florida-based foursome — lead guitarist/vocalist Tim Rossi, guitarist/vocalist Rick Krasowski, bassist Brian Carpenter, and drummer Matt Anastasi — has been jamming together live under the vaunted Blackfoot banner for quite some time, and now they’re ready to release a hard-charging new album on Loud & Proud Records, Southern Native, that beautifully meshes traditional tones with modern sensibilities.
Believes Medlock, who also produced and played guitar on the new album, “I don’t think things should stay the same. They should continue to expand and grow. We should all expand our horizons, whether it be through friendships, marriages, bands, or artists and actors creating new art. Anything in the arts needs to go forward.”
Such forward-moving proof can be found deep within the grooves of Southern Native, from the proud heritage callbacks of the title track to the tasty slide-driven travelogue of “Take Me Home” to the harmonic ramrod-riffage twist on Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s powerful “Ohio” (which includes — spoiler alert! — a quite shrewd wink/nudge lyrical shout-out at the end). You’re certainly welcome to call it Blackfoot 5.0, if you like. “To me, it’s a very well-rounded record,” observes Medlock.
Adds lead guitarist/vocalist Tim Rossi, “Rickey bridged the generations by having his grandfather Shorty Medlock play on those early Blackfoot records, so having Rickey play slide and other guitar with us on this record bridges the modern gap. It’s a full-circle kind of thing.”
When ownership of the Blackfoot name reverted back to Medlock, he went through a number of scenarios as to how to best carry on the band’s legacy. “Originally, I was going to put it away and maybe break it out if I was going to do a tour. I was perfectly happy doing that,” he explains. “But [business partner] Eric Liebl came to us with this idea and said, ‘What if, because Blackfoot has been in existence for three generations, we develop a new band with younger guys in it, like a new generation of the name?’ But I didn’t really cotton to the idea at first. It didn’t hit me.
“And then my manager, Al Nalli, and I got to talking. We said, ‘You know, maybe this could work if we put the right guys together.’ That’s where Tim and Brian came into it. They were playing little juke joints and clubs together in Florida for quite some time. Tim is just an extraordinary guitar player, and Brian has a knack for mirroring what he’s doing on bass. Both of them are as good as each other. Tim has all these crazy riffs and ideas that I’ve now got on record.”
After an arduous audition process, Rickey charged Tim and Brian with finding the right remaining two band members, which they did with Rick and Matt, respectively. “It really is a family,” says Rossi. “Being the new guys, we’re blessed that we’ve been accepted with open arms. Everyone has been so cool about it.”
Medlock has been quite hands-on throughout the entire process, and Rossi and his bandmates wouldn’t have it any other way. “I said I would be involved only if I could produce the records, and co-write or give them songs that had been unreleased,” Medlock confirms. “Everybody was in agreement, and we went forward from there. My vision going into it was always old school meets new school.”
Confirms Rossi, “It was somewhat loose in the way we just started writing and collaborating with Rickey. And he’s got so much energy. He’s the kind of guy who, after he flies home from being on the road with Skynyrd for two months, before he even goes back to his house, he gets off the plane and comes right to the studio while we’re rehearsing! He’ll go, ‘Hey, what are you guys doing? What are you working on? Let me hear something!’ Then he’ll pick up a guitar and join us.”
Artist to artist, Rossi appreciates Medlock’s input. “That’s what put me at ease, in a sense — that I could put ideas out there and bounce them off Rickey, and know Rickey’s going to reflect them in a way that’s appropriate for a new Blackfoot album,” he says. “You put any idea out there, and Rickey can shape it into the direction it should be going. Collaborating with him was a big part of making it ‘new Blackfoot.’ It wasn’t like him just saying, ‘This is what it is,’ and we execute it.
“Every moment I’m with Rickey, I’m just absorbing it all in, listening to everything he’s doing and saying,” Rossi continues. “To be able to have access to someone like Rickey, with all that talent and experience, is a rare thing. In the end, we always want to make sure he’s happy about what we’re doing. We’re just hoping he’s going to go, ‘That kicks ass!’ Nothing makes us feel better than doing something that gets a smile on his face.”
For his part, Medlock is quite pleased with the results, citing “Take Me Home,” the cover of Procul Harum’s “Whiskey Train” (a song longtime Blackfoot fans will remember being played live back in the day), and “Everyman” as some of his favorite standout tracks on the record. “That’s a sleeper song right there,” Medlock says of “Everyman,” a heartfelt ballad with a universal message. “It’s got some lyrics on there that reaches people today. And then the album ends with something that’s so off the wall.”
Medlock is referring to the final track on Southern Native, dubbed “Diablo Loves Guitar,” which could be described as an instrumental surprise. “We were trying to think of something to cap the record off with, since we had cut all the rock songs and ballads we wanted,” Medlock recounts. “I said to Tim, ‘Come up with an acoustical tune that has outlaw-ish, Spanish flamenco-type stuff.’ And several days later, man, he came up to me in the studio and started playing it for me, and we decided that was it! If you listen closely, most of the percussion we added is by Larry [Frantangelo], from Kid Rock’s band. My wife Stacey [Michelle] is singing on it too — that’s her in the background on vocals, just wailing away.”
The apex of the band’s cross-gen intersection is the aforementioned “Take Me Home,” which expertly marries that signature heavy Blackfoot riffage with a modern crunch. “I wanted to basically bring about a traditional sound, and yet update it,” muses Medlock. “The guitar sound we went after were nice tones, different tones, and different styles. We didn’t do a lot of layering. I liked keeping it as simple as possible. What I wanted to do was take people on a journey of yesterday and today.”
Of “Take Me Home,” Rossi recalls, “It happened organically. Every line of that song — dude, that’s us. We’re touring musicians. Even people who just travel for a living, they can relate to it: ‘They’re talking my language.’ Those lyrics speak to you. You have that connection. Afterwards, when we were listening back to it, we thought it was a new-era ‘Layla,’ or something. We were smiling about that as it played.”
With Southern Native set to drop in August, Blackfoot is beyond ready to put some seriously good road miles on this new material by playing it live. “I’ll tell you what — it’s fun,” grins Medlock, who joins the band on tour whenever his busy schedule with Skynyrd allows. “Back in November, we did a three-show run together, and it’s interesting, because the audience — they really love it. The guys come out and play for 45 minutes, and then I come out and play for 45 minutes with them. I still, to this day, love and have a passion for playing live. I always look forward to going on the road and seeing the people, the audience. I still love that, and always will.”
Rossi is grateful for the reception Blackfoot has received from the fanbase. “We’re really lucky that the old-school original audience has accepted us. We’ve won them over,” he notes. “But it’s all about the evolution of the band. That was another thing that was great about going into it. Rickey made it clear from Day 1 that, ‘Hey, I’m not trying to have you guys be like the old band. I just want you guys to be yourselves, and have all of your own experiences and influences reflected. Do your thing.’ And then we just took it from there.”
Adds Medlock, “I’m looking at doing another half-dozen or so shows with the guys this year. What it does is draw good attention to the band and let them go out there and do their thing. It’s fun for me to come out and play some of the classics with them, and I’ll also join in on some of their songs from new the record that I also played on.”
Rossi well understands the critical dual role the band has of carrying on tradition while also creating something new. “The audience sees younger guys playing this material and they go, ‘Wow, man, these guys are kicking ass!’ It’s a pretty cool thing,” he admits. “You feel to some degree that you’re keeping that stuff alive — taking those influences, and stretching this all out into the future. I think that’s important. We’re trying to keep that going. It’s a big responsibility, and we take it pretty seriously. If we’re doing something, we’re doing it all the way.”
Ultimately, Blackfoot: The Next Generation is forging a new path for the band, and with Medlock’s full blessing. “We’re here to help shape and create where Southern rock is going into the future,” Rossi concludes. “It’s great to be a part of that movement. We’re just an American rock band, really. And what we do is not just Southern music — it’s American music.”
As one of the most critical lines of “Call of a Hero” puts forth, “There’s a fine line between thinking and doing.” Medlock, Rossi, and the rest of the Blackfoot collective have clearly come together to properly execute the “doing” part by making a record that every American music fan can relate to and continuously enjoy. Blackfoot’s Highway Song will continue to be sung on and on for generations to come.