Return of the crowes

After missing in action for seven years, this 'Shake Your Money Maker' famed band has finally found its voice again and released a new album

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Published: Tue 22 Apr 2008, 1:29 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 2:45 PM

ON THE Black Crowes' new album, 'Warpaint,' Chris Robinson sings that 'It's too late to play it safe/So let it all ride.'

That's exactly how he feels about the band he and his younger brother, guitarist Rich Robinson, started 24 years ago in Atlanta, as the Crowes deliver their first new album in seven years.

'That's where we are, man,' the 41-year-old Robinson says. 'We've gone through all the drama of getting the band back together, figuring out who's supposed to be here, who wants to be here, what our commitment is, where our philosophies come together and what we want to do. After all that, we're very comfortable with who we are, what our career looks like and who our audience is.

'We feel like we've got something to say,' Robinson says, 'and we want to capitalise on that progressive place. So it's like, 'Man, look at our shiny locomotive. Let's put it back on the track!'' After a serious derailment, however, that wasn't so easy.

After debuting with 'Shake Your Money Maker' (1990), the Black Crowes flew out of the box strong with a pair of multiplatinum albums and one gold one before things leveled off in the mid-1990s. The group continued to record and tour, including a 1999-2000 tour with Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page, but in 2002 the internal tensions that had long been part of the Crowes' nest - particularly between the Robinson brothers - led to the announcement of an indefinite hiatus.

Though it was founding drummer Steve Gorman who precipitated the split by announcing his departure, Robinson says that he too 'just needed to get ... away from everyone'. 'I was unhappy after 10 years of being in the bubble. I needed to definitely have a hands-on experience to prove to myself that life goes on outside the pressure of the Black Crowes. I needed a different vantage point to see what it all meant, or was going to mean,' he says.

Robinson acknowledges that his marriage to actress Kate Hudson also altered his appetite for the band. 'Nothing had ever moved me so deeply,' he says. The two married in 2000, and in 2004 Hudson gave birth to their son, Ryder. They divorced in 2006, though Robinson insists that they remain 'the best of friends.'

The years away from the band were productive ones for most of the Crowes. Robinson released a pair of solo albums. His brother formed the short-lived band Hookah Brown and subsequently released his own solo album. Gorman played sessions and toured with Stereophonics.

Even so, Robinson says, he never felt that the Crowes were done for good. 'I mean, not in realistic terms, not while everyone is still above ground,' he says. 'This is our little trip we've been on. This is our experience. We're very proud of the music that we've created. 'It's funny, man,' Robinson says. 'We're just these middle-class kids from Georgia who wrote these tunes, packed our bags and went off into the world, without much to fall back on. I kind of tease about it being a locomotive, but we put that ... thing together from scratch. It's our own. It's important to us.'

Nevertheless, the Crowes were cautious when they reunited in Spring 2005. There was no record-company contract, nor any stated plan to make an album. They didn't do any interviews. The group simply went out and played shows, including a stint opening for Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, solidifying itself internally before expanding its ambitions.

'I think getting the band back together felt good for everyone,' says Robinson, who also did a separate acoustic tour with his brother in 2006. 'I feel that the band has been very good the last few years. We've done a lot of different things, really opened it up and played a lot of our catalog and a lot of covers. We've hit a lot of things that musically, I think, are interesting to us.

'So what makes ('Warpaint') so vibrant, I think, is that we found our way to this music,' he says, 'as opposed to trying to make something happen when it just wouldn't have been right.'

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