Chris Robinson is a freak‚ a goddamn 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‚ he pushes forward‚ setting out onto the road for a yearlong odyssey of dive bars‚ off-the-beaten path clubs and prestigious theaters. Onstage‚ the Brotherhood radiates this energy and aura that one might take as a Pandora's box‚ as seen at The Orange Peel in downtown Asheville.
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.
Always outspoken about the influence of the Dead on his own endeavors‚ Robinson has never let go of the childlike wonder‚ curiosity and collaborative thirst that made the Dead's music so spirited and remarkable. Robinson is following a similar ethos as he jumps in any direction of something new or unheard of by his ears.
As the Crowes trudged forward in their own pursuits‚ they became more accurate and focused‚ more honest‚ where dueling guitar solos were eventually traded for a keen lyrical perception and a simpler‚ more direct approach. And after they returned from their long overdue hiatus in 2005‚ the group veered further off-course‚ digging up an organic and bountiful tone. That inspiration in the latter part of his career fueled Robinson‚ sending him spiraling into orbit‚ tapping the shoulders of any musician who'd sit and jam together.
Bursting into The Orange Peel with guitars a-blazin'‚ Robinson and six-string ace Neal Casal (once considered to join the Crowes)‚ 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. Throw in keyboardist Adam MacDougall (The Black Crowes)‚ Mark Dutton (bass) and George Sluppick‚ and you're 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.
Slinking along through the 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.
Chris Robinson Brotherhood not only keeps one at bay until The Black Crowes hit the studio or road again‚ they actually‚ in some ways‚ take the express lane and zoom further into territory we've all been waiting for the Crowes to venture towards. 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.