Strong in substance, sad in spirit
Chris Robinson first rose to fame as the swagger-filled frontman of blues-rock band The Black Crowes. He and his guitar-playing brother Rich were the primary songwriters, and good ones at that. Backed by catchy singles such as “She Talks To Angels” and their cover of Otis Redding’s “Hard To Handle,” the Crowes quickly rose to fame in the early 1990s. They slowed down in the 21st century, and after the Robinson brothers began to disagree on band ownership, formally broke up in 2015.
Chris started the Chris Robinson Brotherhood in 2011, and once the Crowes broke up he moved his attention there full time. In June 2019, the band released its sixth album Servants Of The Sun, but sadly two months later, founding member and guitarist Neal Casal committed suicide. His guitar playing is still heard on the album though, as he recorded all the parts before his death.
Robinson’s solo work is definitely different from his work in his previous band. While The Black Crowes were known for snarling blues riffs and a hard edge, the Brotherhood’s material is sunnier, softer and draws more from psychedelic and jam band influences such as late Beatles, Allman Brothers and Phish.
Opening track “Some Earthly Delights” immediately puts the aforementioned influences front and center with its ‘Jessica’-style guitars. Other standout tracks include the funky synths of “Rare Birds,” the Free Bird-channeling “Stars Fell On California,” and “Chauffeur’s Daughter,” a lengthy love song that contains the only remnants of Robinson’s blues past. For the most part, the lyrics are positive and upbeat, and Robinson’s singing is clear and more delicate than usual.
The only thing that puts a damper on the album’s overall happy vibe is that it’s impossible to listen to without thinking about the fact that one of the band’s members is no longer with us. It goes to show that people never truly know what is going on in someone’s mind and things aren’t always as they seem. One thing that stays, though, is that Chris Robinson hasn’t lost any of his songwriting acumens, no matter what band he’s fronting.