Sound: Many of you out might have already heard about the big mess that Maxim Magazine got into when it decided to review The Black Crowes' new album without listening to the entire release. Apparently the critic said something to the effect that the band is doing what it always has done and the album didn't leave the band much room for growth. After actually listening to the CD in full, it's true that the band isn't going all experimental on us -- but there's something to be said for staying true to your sound. The Black Crowes have always been known for a blend of blues and rock, and their latest album Warpaint actually feels more authentic than ever. There are quite a few tracks that sound as raw and gritty as you'll get these days, and it is in those moments that the group shines.
After 7 years of staying out of the studio and a few lineup changes on top of it all, Warpaint marks a respectable re-introduction into the rock world. The Black Crowes aren't concentrating on churning out another Jealous Again or She Talks To Angels, instead going for a raw sound that is closer to the authentic blues than most bands would dare attempt for commercial reasons these days. Written primarily by brothers Rich and Chris Robinson, the album never feels overproduced and that fact, in many ways, is one of the most refreshing aspects to it all.
The opening track isn't necessarily representative of the most stripped-down blues you'll hear on the album, but it still has a gritty rock element that makes it the perfect starter. Goodbye Daughters Of The Revolution begins with some catchy piano lines on top of a few blues licks, and it truly feels like a throwback to the Rolling Stones. It's not that they're ripping the Stones off, in fact The Black Crowes completely pull the sound off. The slide guitar is one of the most impressive parts of Goodbye Daughters Of The Revolution, and Chris Robinson once again delivers all of the emotion and memorable vocals that he became famous for back in the early '90s.
The band hits its peak in a track like Walk Believer Walk and Evergreen, 2 tracks that have a much darker blues feel than anything else you'll hear on the album. There's a dirty quality to the guitars on each of the tracks, while the slide guitar is also a highlight on Walk Believer Walk. You can totally hear either one of the tracks being a hit back in the day for a band like The Allman Brothers or Big Brother And Holding Company, and it's nice to hear a track that so accurately captures that era. Both songs also include unexpected and well-constructed breakdowns a little more than halfway through, with Walk Believe Walk featuring an excellent a cappella part from Robinson. // 9
Lyrics: Chris Robinson has always had a knack for writing interesting, earthy lyrics in the past, and lyrically he's remained consistent. On a song like Oh Josephine, it is somewhat reminiscent of the band's previous ballads, but it still works well in the new context. Robinson sings, It's the dreaming through the come down; Still filling every tape; Come on and touch me baby; Before I turn to rust. The album also includes a Gospel-type track written by Rev. Charlie Jackson called God's Got It, which although the most stripped-down track musically and lyrically, still fits pretty well with Robinson's own material. // 8
Overall Impression: Warpaint might not reach the commercial success that greeted The Black Crowes after Shake Your Money Maker was released, but that's not such a bad thing when it's a result of looking more intensely at your blues roots. This is not to say that the songs aren't memorable or even catchy, because they definitely are. But there's a darker feel to the whole album, with a sound that is deeply immersed in the true blues -- not just the rock-hybrid blend of the blues. There are a few songs where the pace is slowed down a bit too much at times (Locust Street is a pleasing ballad, but not all that interesting), but the lag doesn't last long.
The musicianship among the entire band has never been better, with guitarists Rich Robinson and Luther Dickinson (an awesome new addition to the band) laying down some of the best riffs of The Black Crowes' career. Chris Robinson's vocals haven't waned in the slightest, and be sure to check out the track Movin' On Down The Line to hear some of his harmonica skills. It all adds up to some great performances by a band that doesn't have to rely on an overproduced album to make an impression. // 9