Album: The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion
Last week, one of the great southern rock bands of our time called it quits, though many of you will likely disagree with my definition of “great”.
I’m sure there are a few people who intentionally hate this band, but, for the most part, the Black Crowes are a band that seems to be met with passionate indifference. They have about three songs you’ve heard a million times but don’t know the titles to, and you probably can’t name any of the band members, but you wouldn’t dare turn the radio station from “Hard To Handle” or “She Talks To Angels”. They’ll probably be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame when their time comes, and they”ll probably become a go-to example to showcase what’s wrong with the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. Can you name any (good) bands that have been inspired exclusively by the Black Crowes? Me neither.
All of this makes sense though, considering that the Black Crowes don’t seem to have a clear place in music history yet. Are they a trashy 90s rip-off band that only had a few annoying hits? Are they one of the few brilliant rock bands of the 90s that took different influences across the musical spectrum and mushed it all into their loud and funky Bourbon-soaked interpretation? Are they trashy and brilliant?
These questions are fair, since the Black Crowes were all about contradictions, and they must have frustrated anyone who tried to denote their music into one genre, which was a major hobby for 90’s music journalists. They were playing funky southern rock in a time dominated by Nirvana and grunge. Their first major hit was an Otis Redding cover. They all looked (and danced) like Led Zeppelin (except for Steve Gorman, he looks like the drummer of your local new-wave cover band). Lead singer Chris Robinson sounded like a strung out southern Rod Stewart in the best and worst way possible.
With all this said, I really believe that the Black Crowes are one of the great (surely one of the most under appreciated) bands of rock & roll for all their contradictions. 1992’s The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion is a worthy entry into the southern rock canon along side Allman Brothers’ At Fillmore East and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Second Helping. Before The Frost was one of the best albums nobody listened to in 2009. Brothers and band leaders Chris and his guitarist brother Rich Robinson played the part of Jagger and Richards well to their Exile On Main Street influences. All in all, they were a solid band that could write the heaviest of jams and the softest of ballads.
“Remedy”, the major hit off Southern Harmony, is probably the best song that showcases all of the band’s contradictions and is also a thrilling rock anthem that demands to be played in dive bars all across America. And there’s gospel here, not gospel influence but actual gospel singers. What more do you want?
R.I.P. the Black Crowes. Y’all will be missed dearly.
Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber