There was a time when The Black Crowes were the 90’s answer to the mid 1970’s Rolling Stones, Generation Y had its very own Steve Marriott, and all that was good about southern rock was bottled between the brothers Robinson and their
cohorts. Unfortunately (depending on who you ask), the band had the kind of volatility that only brotherhood can breed between individuals, and the revolving door of guitarists in the band-which was already known for their long winded on-stage jamming–slid from southern rock titan to noodling jam band. With the Crowes on “indefinite hiatus,” Chris Robinson has released an album with former Ryan Adams and the Cardinals lead guitarist Neal Casal (under the Brotherhood moniker) that thoroughly scratches his pysch-jam itches via a string long-winded romps through the land of Birkenstocks and Ben & Jerry’s with Big Moon Ritual.
Even in contrast to Robinson’s still decidedly “jammy” New Earth Mud project, Big Moon Ritual is a much less driven affair than anything we’ve heard from him. Robinson and Casal weave several winding adventures through the Grateful Dead-approved world of twinkling guitars and laid back drums. Chock full of Casal’s deft, linear guitar work and Robinson’s still unbelievably soulful voice, the album lacks the fire Robinson trademarked in the pre-Luther Dickenson-era Crowes. Casal’s own solo records have a similar meandering vibe to the songs, and as a foil for Robinson, they make an excellent duo in this style, though the album never quite picks up or provides a moment of massive impact.
Starting with the tease of an opener “Tulsa Yesterday”, Big Moon Ritual is a well crafted exercise in the more relaxed part of jam-town. All of the album’s seven tracks clock in at seven or more minutes, with “Reflections On a Broken Mirror” providing the more memorable parts of music on the album, carrying a Pink Floyd-stripped synth line and soothing background vocals that almost soothe the sting of Robinson’s lyrics (e.g. “My baby loves me like an autoharp”). Yet regardless of how popular Big Moon Ritual may prove to be for fans of the jam, one can’t help but feel Robinson’s talents as gospel shouting rock ‘n’ roller are being squandered here.
Essential Tracks: “Reflections On a Broken Mirror”, “Beware, Oh Take Care”