Brothers Of A Feather
Chris & Rich Robinson
By James Calemine
Recorded in April 2006, during a break from the Black Crowes tour, Atlanta’s Chris and Rich Robinson showcase 14 songs on Brothers Of A Feather. Culled from 12 acoustic-based shows in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Austin, this release contains the Robinson’s first new songs in 6 years, obscure Crowes compositions and well-chosen cover tunes in a stripped down acoustic duo.
The Robinson brothers alone onstage cast an intimate light on their under-rated abilities. These first-ever full length Brothers Of A Feather performances prove interesting and vital. Engineered by current Crowes guitarist Paul Stacey (who also produced and played guitar on Chris’ New Earth Mud), this collection surprises the listener with a quiet, powerful charm. Beware, these are not the hits. The sonic atmosphere and song selection on this collection veer away from the Black Crowes’ wild-eyed freaky rock and roll path.
Hats off to Rich Robinson…his guitar playing carries the music. Along with Chris’ solid acoustic guitar accompaniment, Rich sounds even more remarkable. The gritty Crowes song “Horsehead” opens the CD. Next, a song from the Crowes album Amorica, “Cursed Diamond”, which appears to be a personal favorite of the brothers because the song often appears in set lists.
However, a cover of John Martin’s “Over The Hill” sets the tone for this 76-minute CD. Their DNA harmonizing and acoustic weaving of the guitars keeps the listener attentive. “Magic Rooster Blues” a song the Crowes played onstage in 2006 proves a classic Rich riff alliterating Chris’ off-the-cuff lyrics: “Make a little mornin’ out of my midnight/Whisper in my ear tell me it’s all right/Let’s go and put some holes mama in our shoes/And sail away with the magic rooster blues” contains the old rollicking musical fever the Crowes control.
“My Heart's Been Killing Me”--appeared on last year’s Crowes double-CD release, The Lost Crowes--originated from a 1997 recording session in Atlanta. “Forgiven Song” Rich wrote for his 2004 Paper CD contains mighty fine sad-hearted, telecaster country twangs and inimitable harmonizing by Chris.
A Chris song, “Someday Past The Sunset”, stands as a centerpiece gem. He sings “I feel weary in the weight of these days” in a scathing and venomous tone as he and Rich feverishly strum acoustic guitars in a Dylanesque mantra in what turns out to be one of Chris’ finest tunes. A Lowell George cover, “Roll Um Easy”, allows Rich to work his slide magic as Chris’ vocal phrasing proves on the spot. The Crowes’ back-up singers, Charity and Mona Lisa Young, provide a beautiful gospel harmony on this one. No notes are wasted on this CD.
Another new Robinson/Robinson song, “Cold Boy Smile” resembles an eerie Nick Drake recording or an Incredible String Band rendition of some cold, dark riverside dirge. These songs allow the brothers delicate acoustic interplay. They render Tom Rush’s “Driving Wheel” in a sad country-blues version that continues the mood of this CD. Rich’s lead vocal and hovering riff on his song “Leave It Alone” drives home the strength of this release on this song alone.
Their rendition of Gene Clark’s “Polly” blends a musical alchemy of acoustic country, blues and folk into one lowdown, back-porch sound. The old, bluesy Crowes b-side “Darling Of The Underground Press” lyrics conjure up the Crowes’ old dance with the devil: “So the story goes that you sold your soul/For illusions of beauty and courage/While young at heart is a nice place to start/Could the truth hold all of this baggage?”
Perhaps the most well-known song on this collection, “Thorn In My Pride” serves as the last track, and a glowing reminder of the Crowes instinct to construct timeless songs. Brothers Of A Feather proves one for the hat…