Archived Arts & Entertainment

As the Crowe flies: Chris Robinson Brotherhood rated among top shows of the year

art chrisrobinsonChris Robinson is a freak‚ a damn musical freak.

Finally wrangling everything into the studio with his freewheelin’ solo project‚ Robinson has already released two albums this year (Big Moon Ritual and The Magic Door)‚ both of which could be considered cornerstone records for any group.

But‚ with manic ambition‚ the leader of The Black Crowes pushes forward in his own endeavors‚ setting out onto the road for a yearlong odyssey of dive bars‚ off-the-beaten path clubs and prestigious theaters.

Bursting into The Orange Peel on Sept. 30 with guitars a-blazin’‚ Robinson and his six-string ace Neal Casal (who rips apart his instrument with such meticulous precision) leave you standing there‚ wondering why the hell you haven’t boarded this fast-moving locomotive before? You find yourself drinking an intoxicating potion of what psychedelic rock has been lagging in recent years‚ which is something melodic to chew on as a listener‚ but not choke on.

The Brotherhood takes a more scenic route than one might expect‚ where, instead of three-minute cut-and-dry rock selections‚ there are elongated ballads and progressive rock melodies‚ where stretching into double digit minutes isn’t uncommon. There’s a healthy mix of late 1970s Grateful Dead-inspired numbers‚ but also a few other ingredients along the lines of Yes‚ Neil Young and The Band. Yet‚ with all these ensembles whispering in his ear‚ Robinson doesn’t once come across as a carbon copy of his idols‚ rather an ideal bridge from one generation into the next.

These California kids aren’t playing “Grateful Dead house‚” they’re taking the bricks and mortar of influence and imagination and constructing their own temple of worship to the cosmic heavens above. Eventually, the Crowes passed up dueling guitar solos for a more organic and bountiful tone; it was that inspiration that fueled Robinson‚ sending him spiraling into orbit‚ tapping the shoulders of any musician who’d sit and jam.

Slinking along through the Asheville performance‚ the band hit their stride during “Star or Stone‚” a magical creation oozing lyrics of longing thrown against a wall of steady guitar mastery that builds upon each word. Your feet begin to scream up to your brain to get moving‚ get dancing and‚ most of all‚ get it together because surely life is too short and beautiful to stand by yourself against the quiet walls of society.

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CRB not only keeps one at bay until the Crowes hit the road again‚ they actually take the express lane and zoom further into territory we’ve all been waiting for the Crowes to venture toward. If this is any sort of directional marker for what’s the come‚ I look forward to wandering into whatever thick forest of sonic exploration they point to.

Editor’s note: Arts and Entertainment writer Garret K. Woodward has been reveling in the WNC music scene since moving to Waynesville last year to join The Smoky Mountain News’ team. Reflecting on the myriad shows he’s caught since landing in the region, he takes us on a trip down memory lane to relive one of his favorites from the year.

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