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Cabin Fever

by: The Black Crowes

Album Artwork

(Silver Arrow Records)

Cabin Fever represents an official documentary of The Black Crowes' 13-day Before The Frost...Until The Freeze recording sessions at Levon Helm's Barn. The new material was performed and recorded live in front of a small studio audience of about 200 people on five different evenings.

Directed by Matthew Mendenhall and Masashi Ohtsu, Cabin Fever not only reveals the live recorded performances but the actual songwriting sessions. Chris Robinson introduces the crowd to the sessions, explaining the group's musical intent, and the band renders "Aimlesss Peacock" with Rich Robinson playing sitar. The next scene finds Chris and Levon sitting around the fire talking about the sessions.

"Good Morning Captain", one of the best rock and roll songs I've heard in several years, stands as the next song in the sequence. It's always interesting to see the band playing a tune for only the first or second time; just navigating on a nod or wink. “Shady Grove” is performed with just Chris and Rich sitting around a coffee table as Chris sings the lyrics right from the notebook page. A song not on the double album, a Velvet Underground song, called “Oh Sweet Nuthin’”—sang by Rich—pulls at the musical heartstrings. Luther Dickinson’s gold top Les Paul licks on this song ring beyond true.

“Garden Gate" allows the great Larry Campbell to demonstrate his deft fiddle playing. On “Roll On Jeremiah” Campbell plays a mercurial pedal steel, and Dickinson a hillside-sounding mandolin. “Appaloosa” defines the classic country-soul Crowes. Another track that didn’t make the album—“Little Lizzie Mae”—contains a rockabilly vibe…almost a tip of the hat to Levon and The Hawks. Keyboardist Adam MacDougall shines on these tunes with his homespun-barroom style that fits well with these compositions.

The session’s gem, Rich Robinson’s “What Is Home?”, proves the Crowes versatility and depth of soul. A montage of snow-covered landscape and Helm’s wooden temple filters through the music, “which sounds just like it feels”. Dickinson, MacDougall and drummer Steve Gorman all discuss the band’s mode of operandi on these sessions in separate interviews. As usual, Rich Robinson says very little on Cabin Fever.

Been A Long Time” reiterates The Crowes’ instinct and talent to play their own blend of rock funk and roll. The countrified “Shine Along” plays as the credits roll. One of the bonus tracks on this DVD include a cover of Fred Neil’s “Dolphins”. Cabin Fever captures a vital era in the Crowes' career and should be obtained by any fan.

 James Calemine


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