It's not easy being a Black Crowes fan. Since its debut in 1990, the now-legendary bluesy rock 'n' roll band has created some amazing music, most notably the first three albums (including the immortal Amorica, released in 1994) and a wonderful live collaboration with Jimmy Page. But other recordings have felt either indulgent or uninspired. The band even lost interest for a while, breaking up from 2002 to 2005.
The brothers Robinson (singer Chris and guitarist Rich) and company have returned to form here, possibly influenced by the fact that they recorded this album in front of a live audience at Levon Helm's barn studio in Woodstock, N.Y. The Crowes have not sounded this relaxed and vital at the same time in many years, tackling classic rock, psychedelia, blues, country and R&B. There's even some disco on the surprisingly limber "I Ain't Hiding," which sports a classic rubbery funk bass line by Sven Pipien on the verses, but rocks seriously on the choruses.
The Crowes take on The Band on "Good Morning Captain," the Allmans on "Been a Long Time (Waiting on Love)," primordial Stones on "Kept My Soul" and alt-twang on "Appaloosa." Guitarists Rich Robinson and Luther Dickinson nail down all the different textures and tones necessary to bring the diverse material alive.
It's not as if the Black Crowes sound exactly like those artists; with this album (and the accompanying nine-song download, ... Until the Freeze), the band gathers the same scattered grains as do their musical forefathers.