Despite the highly reputable Maxim men's mag (that's a joke, folks) bestowing 2 1/2 stars upon the album without hearing it, the Black Crowes' Warpaint marks a return to form for Georgia brothers Chris and Rich Robinson, back from a seven-year hiatus and picking up those bong-resined Telecasters like their last three mediocre efforts never happened.
Dark, soulful and sophisticated, Warpaint wears its Southern charm proudly on its tie-dyed sleeve without falling back on the too-obvious Stones aping ("She Talks to Angels" being a re-write of "Wild Horses," for instance) that defined the band's early career. By the same token (toking?), don't expect any Top 40 moments. Besides, when have the Robinson boys cared for hits?
OK, don't answer that.
If anything, Warpaint sounds like a record The Band might have made many decades ago. "Goodbye Daughters of the Revolution" possesses the rugged, roots-rock fatalism that defined Robbie Robertson and Co. However, the Crowes keep the deep, bluesy rhythms coming with tracks like the slide-guitar-gonna-charm-a-rattlesnake stomp of "Walk Believer Walk," and the beautiful, bayou-kissed ballad "Oh Josephine," with harmony vocals aplenty.
Sure, "Locust Street" may be more Faces-styled, country-blues pop, but when Robinson sings, "Can you hear the sunrise crying?" you sense the Crowes have crept back to a place where they can make great music--informed by the past, but not imitative. Four stars at least, laddie!