Southern fried rock at its finest: Blackfoot’s “Marauder” turns 40

Author Olli Lehtonen - 15.7.2021

Known for its hard rock sound and Rickey Medlocke’s iconic voice an American southern rock band Blackfoot is one of the milestones of the genre. Still, hardly anyone mentions it among one’s favorites today. The band mixes guitar heavy metal style riffing to country music keeping its feet tightly on its southern roots. It is considered as an overnight sensation although it took almost a decade to reach that point.

Blackfoot, which was named after a famous native American tribe, made its debut in 1975 with “No Reservation” published by Island Records. It was pretty much bit generic straight forward ’70s southern rock with a gritty twist. After the second album “Flying High” the band established its hard rock sound in 1979 on its classic album “Strikes” from which it became famous. It was the band’s breakthrough album containing classics such as “Train Train” and “Highway Song” as well as memorable covers “I Got a Line on You” and “Wishing Well”. Same kind of heavier sound beefed up with twin guitar attacks by Medlocke and Charlie Hargrett featured also on the next two albums “Tomcatting” and “Marauder”. The latter album turns 40 15 July.

“Marauder” is one of the finest examples of the early 1980s southern rock which was yet to be spoiled by soft radio friendly production. It is pretty similar to its predecessor “Tomcatting” showing signs of more commercial direction heard on the next albums. There are many hard-hitting tracks such as heavy metal injected “Good Morning” and “Too Hard to Handle” embodying the gospel of rock ‘n’ roll. These tracks are softened up with more polished stuff like slide guitar driven “Fly Away” and a ballad like “Searching” without pouring too much sugar in the brew. In addition, the intriguing use of roots instruments such as dobro or slide guitar gives a nice touch to the album’s otherwise generic line-up. There’s even an energetic banjo intro played by Medlocke’s granddaddy Paul Robert “Shorty” Medlocke on a grooving piece “Rattlesnake Rock ‘N’ Roller”. The song features a rootsy dobro solo giving the song a nice touch.

Medlocke’s recognizable raspy voice is in its finest on “Diary of a Working Man”: A moody ballad in a spirit of Skynyrd’sSimple Man” beginning from a ringing guitar arpeggio and growing to larger and life feeling sphere. Its epic guitar solo before the grand finale is one of the best moments on the record. The song may not be as grandiose as “Highway Song” but a fairly memorable track, too.

Not being the best Blackfoot album “Marauder” is southern rock at its finest. It’s early ’80s style southern fried hard rock with a touch of AOR is pure sweetness. There are clever hooks and variations between the tracks keeping it interesting as a whole. The album is described as the last great album. – Since the New Wave of British Heavy Metal was raising its head at the time the record company Atco pressured the band for more commercial “up to date” sound which resulted in an album “Siego”.

“Siego” is an unsuccessful attempt to force the group in to the sweeter 1980s mold featuring a former Uriah Heep keyboardist Ken Hensley. Due to the poor sales Hargrett left the band in 1984. The group has been active ever since through various reincarnations even though the current line-up does not include any original members. Medlocke eventually joined Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1996 as a guitarist in which he had played drums and sang harmony as a session musician before. He has been in the band ever since joining his former Blackfoot bandmates and sharing the stage occasionally so that the band’s legacy won’t fade away.