Thursday, September 10, 2009

Disc of the Day: The Black Crowes, Before the Frost ...

Here's my rundown on the latest from The Black Crowes, a band that has become one of my favorite rock groups of recent years. A version of this review also was published online (and in print) at Las Vegas City Life. Read it here.

The Black Crowes
Before the Frost ...
(Silver Arrow/Megaforce)

Live, preferably at an intimate venue, is the best way to appreciate the greasy, Southern-fried rock and roll of the Black Crowes, still spreading the gospel of their good-time music nearly 20 years after singer Chris Robinson and guitarist Rich released their platinum-selling debut album.

This time they hedged their bets, recording mostly live in Woodstock, N.Y., in front of a small audience in former Band drummer Levon Helm's barn.

Overall, the sound is looser, more laidback, with blues and Americana elements emphasized a bit more heavily by a lineup benefiting from the boisterous contributions of North Mississippi Allstars guitarist Luther Dickinson and original Crowes drummer Steve Gorman.

"Good Morning Captain," flecked with banjo, slide-guitar grunge, honky piano and talk of magnolias, levees and murder, opens the disc with a chugging blast reminiscent of Helm's old group.

The Crowes always have worn their influences on their sleeves, beginning with the open Faces borrowings of their early work. That tendency is evident here with "Been a Long Time (Waiting on Love)" copping CCR's swamp rock, the sweet harmonies and acoustic guitars of "What is Home" nodding to CSN, and "I Ain't Hiding" pointing to the Stones' failed experiments in welding disco thump to guitar crunch.

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