Sound — 9
This album sounds fantastic. Most of the songs featured on it are all familiar, well-known tracks from this band's extensive catalog, and they generally translate well as acoustic songs. Some are fairly straightforward takes that barely differ from the original versions (Soul Singing, She Talks To Angels, Sister Luck, Bad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbye), but nearly every song has at least some subtle addition, most often in the form of added percussion played by Joe Magistro or more noticeably fiddle, banjo, and/or pedal steel guitar played by Donnie Herron. In addition, there are a handful of songs that were either partially or completely reworked. Hotel Illness and Downtown Money Waster both give forth a country vibe, especially the latter, which is a full on country jugband romp, complete with banjo, mandolin, fiddle, slide guitar and harmonica. Nonfiction has an extended jam tacked onto the end of it, which is nothing particularly new if you've heard the song live before. The piano coda that is present on the studio version of Ballad in Urgency is extended a full four minutes, which, once again, is standard operating procedure for live versions. The two most notable re-arrangements, however, can be found in Thorn In My Pride and My Morning Song. Thorn features a mid-song jam that is an abbreviated version of the standard live jam, but is still very different from any part of the original song. My Morning Song features a completely brand spankin' new gospel section played under the "if music got to free your mind" verses, which is bittersweet to me personally (I think that part on the original version is one of the best parts of any Black Crowes song). Also of note is the first official studio release of the 2006 original song Cold Boy Smile, which absolutely shines in this acoustic format, and the only thing I can come up with that really has me scratching my head- the addition of a drum machine on Share the Ride. Overall though, the band did a very good job with this recording, and Paul Stacey did a great job once again with the production.
Lyrics — 10
All but two of the songs on this album had been previously released on Black Crowes studio albums, so the lyrics are nothing new. That said, most of the songs come from Southern Harmony, Amorica, and Three Snakes, all of which I feel are very, very strong lyrically. The addition of Cold Boy Smile and Graham Parson's She just add to the strength of the lyrics on Croweology. Possibly one of the most impressive parts about this album is Chris Robinson's vocals. I remember reading that most of the vocals that appear on the album were scratch vocals- those recorded as rough takes just to run through the songs with the band -and I can now see why there was no need to do additional takes. Robinson is laid back and relaxed with his delivery and range, and it sounds fantastic.
Overall Impression — 8
Overall, while it is nothing overly outstanding, I am very happy with this album; it is an enjoyable listen. The band sounds great in an acoustic setting, and this album shows it, and Donnie Herron does a fantastic job of adding touches of fiddle, banjo, and pedal steel that really enhance nearly every song. I personally wish they would have taken some more chances with the tracklist, but regardless of the fact that they played it safe in that regard, the versions they produced of these songs that we all know and love are strong. It's sad to think that this might be the last Black Crowes album for quite some time, but it is a fitting farewell, paying tribute to the past, showcasing the present, and toasting to the future, whenever that may be. Hopefully the Brothers Robinson decide further on up the road to continue making music as The Black Crowes and add to the legacy of this great band, and if they do I will be anxiously waiting to share the ride.