by Dan Bolles
Yo yo, Solid State. Happy Friday.
You'll notice I'm addressing you in italics, so you've probably gathered something different is on tap for today. And you'd be correct. On that note, I'd like to introduce another new occasional contributor to these here electronic music pages, Mr. Jake Rutter. Jake has done some work for 7D in the past, most recently during Casey Rae-Hunter's reign. And he has a pretty snazzy review of The Lonestar Chain's new disc set to run in next week's paper. In the meantime, we dispatched him to check out The Black Crowes at Higher Ground this past Tuesday. So without further adieu, take it away, Jake.
I walked into my first Black Crowes show 18 years ago, giddy with excitement — though maybe more for Robert Plant, the evening’s headliner — but psyched, nonetheless, for the ragtag opening act from Georgia. It was with the same sense of excitement that I hit Higher Ground Tuesday night for the second night of the Crowes’ Vermont visit.
The fellas are riding high on the success of Warpaint, their most well received and acclaimed album since sophomore effort, Southern Harmony and Musical Companion. Promptly at 9:00 (a surprise, I must say) the Brothers Robinson and their rejiggered lineup hit the stage to raucous applause and tore right into “Goodbye Daughters of the Revolution,” Warpaint’s superb first single. From there, the group, leaning heavily on the new album, slammed out a career-spanning set that was light on “big hits” but heavy on good, old fashioned, ass shakin’ rock and freakin’ roll.
Nearly two decades in, there is still nobody that does bearded boogie better than Chris Robinson, despite some worthy successors (I’m looking at you , Kings of Leon). While Chris did his thing, Rich Robinson was his normal, staid self, using his axe to accent and augment his brother’s soulful yelps on “Sister Luck” and "Oh Josephine” with the ease that only comes from a lifetime of playing together. Never one to seek out the spotlight, Chris seemed more than pleased to let newest Crowe, Luther Dickinson take the lion’s share of the set’s smoking leads.
Luther, slide wizard from the North Mississippi Allstars, is the spark that has revitalized this band. The Crowes have always looked a little dirty, but Luther makes them sound filthy. He punctuated “Walk Believer Walk,” “Cypress Tree” and “Wounded Bird” with such gritty solos you could feel the river silt in your shoes.
Indeed, the Crowes have as strong a lineup as they ever had. I did, though, miss old Eddie Harsch during “Descending,” one of the night’s highlights and a signature piece for Eddie, who always looked like Chris and Rich’s crazy uncle hunkered down behind his arsenal of keys. New piano jockey Adam MacDougall proved himself a worthy replacement, knocking the crowd back with a powerful solo on “Wiser Time.” It was especially nice to see Steve Gorman back behind the kit. When the boys “snuck” into town as Mr. Crowes Garden a few years back, Steve was noticeably absent. His energy and infallible propulsion were huge parts of the evening’s success, most notably when Steve and his giant marching band bass drum took front and center for the tent show revival stomp of “God’s Got It,” another Warpaint standout. However, judging by the assembled masses’ nonstop adulation and, from right behind me, the cry of “C’mon, Amanda, get your titties out!!” it is, in fact, the Crowes that still got it.