It came as a shock but a welcome surprise when I saw that Chris Robinson of The Black Crowes had a new album out with a band under his own name, and one that might make some go “wow, so by calling themselves Chris Robinson Brotherhood, is he saying that the sense of brotherhood he has with his new band is a lot better than the band that had his own brother?” I don’t know, but I will say that as someone who has been a fan of Robinson’s voice since the first album, it’s great to hear him in a different context, even if that context is only in name. It’s my way of saying if you ever loved the work of the Black Crowes over the years, you will love his new venture on their debut album, Big Moon Ritual (Silver Arrow).
What I love about this album is that, if you ever preferred the Black Crowes in a live setting over the limitations of what they did in the studio, you will find this album to be incredible. Robinson is very much the stoner bluesman who loves live, love, music, and good times, and even those who celebrate the good times suffer with the blues. This has always been one of the reason I’ve enjoued hearing him, because with the voice he has comes lyrics which comes from experience or at least a curiosity about what the next man things. It’s very much a “brother man” mentality, and he does this with a band who truly love what they do. The opening track, “Tulsa Yesterday”, even gets into a nice jam that feels like it could go on for 15 to 20 minutes in a Grateful Dead fashion (and considering they’ve done many shows with Bob Weir, I wouldn’t be surprised if it has. I’ll have to check and see if any live shows are circulating.) It’s bluesy, they’re not afraid to incorporate some country, and what surprised me is that out of nowhere, here comes a Minimoog solo (or what sounds like a Minimood). It reminded me of 1975 era Pink Floyd, specifically the solo Richard Wright did at the end of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond: Part IX”, and it wouldn’t surprise me if keyboardist Adam MacDougall (or Robinson) had that vibe in mind.
Robinson has never been afraid to wear his freak flag high, and as high as he may be in a social setting, his music and lyrics have always been down to Earth, and Big Moon Ritual is an earthy album for those who love music with emotional impact, one that allows us to say “yes, we’re human, we deal with shit, but there’s also a good world out there. We have to live it and find it for ourselves.” He could easily get trippy and sing something like “I’m interplanetary, I’m going to reach for the universe and milk the way out of the constellations” but the album is called Big Moon Ritual. Life is about celebrating under the big moon, and our ritual is simply finding something we want to do on a routine. Joy in repetition, as Prince once said, and this ritual is mmm mmm good.