I don’t know why, but over the past year or two I’ve taken to listening to music that can get a bit mellow and which can lean towards the uplifting. Not like me at all. The Tesdeschi Trucks Band is one fine example. There’s even some ’70s Clapton in there. Who knew? The most recent addition to my go-to list of not-as-dark-as-you’d-expect tune merchants is The Chris Robinson Brotherhood.
Formed on the demise of The Black Crowes, vocals aside The CRB is a very different entity. Chris Robinson has clearly taken a divergent approach to his ex-Crowes bandmates, brother Rich and Mark Ford, whose Magpie Salute is pretty much The Black Crowes with a new, albeit soundalike, singer. Here, the general sonic template – essentially early ’70s sounds and vibes – are in place but less rocky, less Stones/Zeppelin and more Grateful Dead/Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac. They’re as prolific as a 1970’s act as well, with five studio albums and one double live set released so far since 2012.
I had some birthday cash to spend last month and happened upon a complete set of CRB CDs going for affordable on eBay. I bought the lot. (Dig that clever play on words. Rest assured, there’s no more where that came from.) I’ll be working my way through these for quite a while but I’m currently stuck on Anyway You Love, We Know How You Feel. Terrific album.
Narcissus Soaking Wet is the first CRB track I heard, via a live studio session on YouTube – on account of my being all modern and down with the digitals – and it makes for a funky opener here. In fact a lot of the tunes here carry a big funk element, with the abundance of vintage synths and the occasional burst of harmonica recalling prime time (Talking Book/Innervisions) Stevie Wonder. There are obvious nods to Bob Dylan (Forever as the Moon), a whole lot of southern rock and even mid-’70s Queen (Oak Apple Day). Sometimes, for these ears, the lead guitar stylings of Neal Casal are perhaps a tad too polite and those synths can sound a little incongruous but somehow it all works.
Nice packaging on this as well (true of all of these CRB CDs), a card gate-fold with with a decent booklet of throwback line art. This type of sleeve has come along nicely in recent years – just in time for the decline of the format, of course. Still, said decline might yet prove survivable, particularly if this is how discs are being packaged. Regardless, I’m pretty sure this and the rest of CRB catalogue is available on vinyl for those of you with deeper pockets. Dig in.