The rap on the Black Crowes' sound has always been their wholesale looting of the '70s glam swagger of bands like Faces, the Stones and T-Rex. Shameless rip off or loving tribute? These are just words. The Chris Robinson Brotherhood cherry picks its influences from the same era, but from an entirely different orchard.
The band's latest release, If You Lived Here, You Would Be Home by Now, is only five songs, but it covers a broad spectrum. With its handclaps, Leslie organ and fuzzy guitar break, "New Cannonball Rag" is a soulful platter featuring Robinson's raspy blues-yowl piled high with Muscle Shoals goodness. The band's genre-bending is confident but relaxed on "Roan County Banjo," which starts with a stoned-in-the-barnyard feel and down-home lyrics like, "Holly, put the kettle on, it's been morning now for days /There's a rooster in the kitchen, says he ain't been paid." About halfway into this eight-minute voyage, a shimmering tambourine signals a shift to mid-period Beatles pop, with plenty of sonic synthesizer treats like digital doinks and spiraling warbles in the mix. Curiously, there is no banjo.
This collection feels like a natural progression from Any Way You Love, We Know How You Feel, released earlier this year. On that album's "Forever is the Moon," Robinson dips into the Big Bag o' Dylan Lyrics for lines like, "Give my regards to the captain of the guards who has lost his sabre / While in the back room the boys have it large and his mistress, she sets the table." Not quite "Desolation Row." More like "Ennui Cul-de-Sac."
The Chris Robinson Brotherhood has emerged from the Crowes' long shadow, infusing their jam band excursions with tons of tasty musical details, creating a solid framework for one of the best rock 'n' roll voices of his generation.
The Chris Robinson Brotherhood plays the Wilma Tue., Nov. 29, at 8 PM. $25–$35 advance.
This article was updated Nov. 23 to reflect the title of the latest album.