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Chris & Rich Robinson

The Black Crowes

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The Black Crowes by Josh Miller

There are easier roads The Black Crowes might have taken in their 20 years together. Few acts with one of the biggest selling debut albums in history would have traveled such jagged, highly individualistic pathways or stuck so aggressively to a creative code of conduct that’s never allowed them to create “product” or fully capitulate to the whims and fancies of label suits. “Trust me, man, I’m sure some of the people in this band wish we’d taken some of those easier roads,” offers Chris Robinson. “I’m like Captain Ahab chasing the White Whale [laughs].

Croweology encapsulates some of the byways and back roads this band has traveled with the lot given an acoustic-minded makeover. Given their massive catalog – further stretched by one of the largest cover selections since Garcia used to teach his mates a new song at almost every soundcheck – the 20 cuts selected for Croweology carry significance. There’s nothing casual about the choices made for the last recorded chapter for the time being. In ruminating over this career-spanning assortment one is once again reminded of how unique, gutsy and melodic the Crowes are, and how even after two decades, try as they might, no other band sounds quite like them. Their hungry reach into the roots of rock ‘n’ roll and insistence on the genre being a vibrant, pulsating, living entity comes through in the new arrangements and heartfelt performances, which are finding live footing on the Fall/Winter “Say Goodnight To The Bad Guys Tour,” where the band has been playing acoustic sets regularly before plugging in for the electric mayhem they’ve long delivered.

We turn now to the second disc of Croweology and the thoughts of The Black Crowes’ architects Chris and Rich Robinson on what they have wrought.

Promo Single

She Talks To Angels
To me, the song is just great. Musically, I never get bored of playing it, and I think Chris’ melody and lyrics are just amazing. For this record, it was just a no-brainer for all of us. Luther is great on this one. He’s got his ears open all the time and he’s listening to what everyone is doing and he adds what needs to be added. (Rich)

Morning Song
The Morning Song jam has always changed, so when we got to the studio and worked on the arrangement, when we got to the middle part we kinda just stopped and I started singing it different and explained this is where we needed to go. What you hear is the first time we did it. It just fell into place and we hit it. We’re in a place where we’re asking, “What are we shooting for?” We were talking the other day about producers who feel like what they’re doing is more important than the song or the artist, guys like Mutt Lange. Fuckin’ Def Leppard and Shania Twain, it all sounds the same – it’s just shit. We’re lucky to be in this place [today]. What are we shooting for? To be accepted at a radio format or to be pretty and clean and youthful in a video format? No, we’re shooting for something that hits you right in your soul.

Rich Robinson by Josh Miller

When your heart and your mind and your soul collide, to me, is where great music makes itself aware to you. If you can be open to that when you’re making music then that’s what you’re trying to make. We’re not trying to make pop songs. We’re not worried about whether this record will get played or what anyone else’s record sounds like. That’s for pop bands. So, we know when we hit those moments because everyone can feel the spontaneity. That’s what motivates us. That’s what this band looks for on a nightly basis. (Chris)

Downtown Money Waster
The way it was written was with a dobro, and then we brought on Eric Bobo on Amorica to do it. It turned into something cool and kept growing. That’s one of the things I feel we reached on this record – growth. It’s one of the songs that’s really evolved into something different. (Rich)

Good Friday
Another one of my favorites. If you think about the psychedelic parts of what we do you usually think about the big, monstrous, electric stripe of that. But then you have a song like Good Friday, which is probably one of the trippiest songs we’ve recorded with this version. You can take the smallest things and they can make the biggest musical statement. I think this is a very subtle, nicely tripping piece of psychedelia. (Chris)

Thorn Single

Thorn In My Pride
It’s always great for me to play; it never gets old. We changed the middle section into something new, merging the Brothers of a Feather version and the Crowes version. (Rich)

Welcome To The Good Times
Someone made a comment recently about “how can you say what you say about By Your Side?” Well, I made it so I can say what I want. How’s that for an answer? When I make a criticism about myself, if you like it, that doesn’t mean you’re wrong. And there are great songs on By Your Side and I think Welcome To The Good Times is as good a song as any Rich and I have written. The other thing is we played it at the Town Hall. We took the two acoustic nights at the Town Hall during the Warpaint Tour as a blueprint for what we can do. Welcome To The Good Times just rings with that certain cynical optimism we have. (Chris)

Girl From A Pawnshop
That’s a song we’re all really into. (Rich)

Chris Robinson by Josh Miller

Sister Luck
That was one I didn’t think would work acoustic, and of course, Amy [longtime tour manager and right hand gal] in her infinite wisdom said, “Yes it will. Now do it.” So, we did it. We wrote that song in probably 1988 or 1989, so it’s probably 21-22 years old, but at least for me, it’s as fresh as the day we wrote it. It’s still a soulful song, and a song written from a 21 or 22-year-old’s perspective. So, there’s a lot more shading in life, where you have no idea what will happen and you don’t know how much will be left up to fate and how much will be a roll of the dice. (Chris)

We’ve always done covers for 20 years, starting with Hard To Handle, and we felt it would not be fully representative if we didn’t include one, and She has been with us for a long time. (Rich)

Bad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbye
I like mid-tempo stuff [laughs]. One of the main changes from Shake Your Moneymaker to Southern Harmony was the introduction of the mid-tempo heavy rock song like Black Moon Creeping. Heavy metal music doesn’t really do that. That’s definitely something that made people take notice because they hadn’t heard anybody doing mid-tempo hard rock in a long time. I think Bad Luck Blue Eyes is one of the best songs Rich and I have written, another slice of early 90s living where we listened to that first Little Feat record, Songs From Big Pink, The Grease Band and stuff. All those songs wrote themselves in that era. I think [Bad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbye] has grown up well. (Chris)

The Black Crowes play the final six shows of the current tour before an indefinite hiatus at San Francisco’s The Fillmore starting this Sunday, December 12.

Some videos to coincide with the Disc Two selections.