The Black Crowes – Warpaint (Silver Arrow Records) Keith Boyd 3.8.8
At this point in their career is it still fair or even relevant to call The Black Crowes a “FILL IN THE BLANK” retread act? Does it matter that their Bluesy, psychedelic soul rock recalls a mish mash of Stones/Faces/Zeppelin? As of 2008 they’ve been playing for longer than many of their forbearers did and in the major label Rock world aren’t they one of the last acts standing? All arguments to the side I say that when the results are as good as this album the comparisons and conundrum don’t even warrant a notice so I’m getting it out in the open here right at the beginning and we’ll leave it at this; THE BLACK CROWES ROCK!
After an absence in studio output of seven years the Crowes come galloping back into the battle with, “Warpaint” and if this soulful dose of freaky deak doesn’t move you, you might want to schedule an appointment with your head shrinker. Relying less on their poppier instincts the Robinson brothers drive this beast in a blues direction. They come across as Old West preachers drunk on equal parts Gospel and Moonshine. The darkness and regret that permeate tracks such as, “Walk Believer Walk” and “Oh Josephine” is deeply moving and impressive as signposts to Chris Robinson’s growth as a songwriter. While I’m sure that some of this powerful sadness comes from such personal tragedies as divorce, drug abuse and the soul/body wear of touring, The Black Crowes seem to ultimately come across more as wild-eyed prophets than depressive bedroom poets. The tone is one of celebration. A celebration of experience in all of its guises. The Crowes are coming out on the side of life here and are reveling in its wild ride of up’s and down’s.
Musically the band is as tight and focused as ever. The newest addition to their ever changing lineup is Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi All-stars. His amazing slide guitar work contributes tension, intricacy and passion all over the album. Together with new keyboard player Adam MacDougall, Dickinson and Rich Robinson give these songs a tight woven, homemade feel akin to those of the Allman Brothers or Derek and the Dominos.
The thick and warmly produced sound of “Warpaint” shows a band making music for the pleasure of doing so. The relatively concise set of songs here is a thoroughly satisfying listen. The Black Crowes have always loved being Rock Stars. I feel that this attribute and attitude is one of their more endearing qualities. Rather than following the lead of the faceless multitudes of other underground acts and trying to look as anonymous as possible, they wear beads and feathers and funky hats. Some may look at this as superficial, oh well go ahead and be my guest. For my part I like my Rock Stars to look the part. The great thing about The Crowes is that they sound the part as well.