While outspoken former (and perhaps yet again) Black Crowes front man Chris Robinson hasn't gone so far as to regard the band he once shared with his brother as baggage, it's clear that he revels in charting the self-determined singer-songwriter course that he's presently on, as two hearty sets on the last date of this particular tour leg would prove.
While outspoken former (and perhaps yet again) Black Crowes front man Chris Robinson hasn’t gone so far as to regard the band he once shared with his brother as baggage, it’s clear that he revels in charting the self-determined singer-songwriter course that he’s presently on, as two hearty sets on the last date of this particular tour leg would prove.
No, he hasn’t rejected the past; his — and the Crowes’ — sound is fundamentally predicated on it, as detractors will readily attest. But he’s broadened his horizons a bit with his first solo album, “New Earth Mud” (Redline Entertainment), by allowing time and space for a few rather romantic ballads that would have been unlikely to find their way onto the rock group’s next record.
Robinson contributed adequate guitar accompaniment on nearly every song live, something he never did with his previous outfit. In fact, longtime Crowes fans should be rather shocked to see and hear the singer taking his own wah-wah solo mid-set.
Of course, some old habits die hard, as extended intros, outros and just-plain jams still occur quite often within the revolving repertoire — ranging from country-fried boogie to spacey British psychedelia, often merging in a sort of Dead zone. But the mere act of holding and playing guitar on the tunes now renders Robinson an active and vital participant as bandleader and member, having quickly achieved a simpatico with his backing musicians. (His first touring foray featured just himself and sublime guitarist Paul Stacey.)
Mellowed, matured, married — whatever the case — Robinson no longer has to scream his lyrics to be heard (it happens far less, anyway), but he still sings with conviction and soul. Stellar covers included Clapton-Russell’s “Blues Power,” Garcia-Hunter’s “Comes A Time” and Dylan’s “When I Paint My Masterpiece,” while highlights of his own were the contemplative “Barefoot By the Cherry Tree,” lullaby-like “Fables” and achingly beautiful and as-yet unrecorded “Beginners and Sinners.”
Return to L.A. allowed for another brief reuniting with outcast Crowe guitarist Marc Ford on the encore of “High-Heeled Sneakers.”