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Music Review: The Black Crowes – Warpaint

You've really got to hand it to The Black Crowes.  It takes balls to add a slide player like Luther Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars) to the lineup when you've been chided your entire career for being a Rolling Stones/Faces cover band.  The Robinson brothers have never been afraid to shoot the bird at their critics – or each other, for that matter – and Warpaint is their latest middle finger to the world.  These guys never run out of hands, do they?

The album opens with the fantastic "Goodbye Daughters of the Revolution," a song with the kind of catchy chorus these guys should be famous for.  Dickinson doesn't wait for a guitar solo to make that sleazy slide a presence nor does he disappoint when that first invitation to solo is extended.  Chris Robinson may not have had Luther in mind when he sings "come join the jubilee," but Dickinson sounds right at home.

Some fraud at Maxim wrote off the entire album having only heard that one song.  I don't know what he was listening to because I felt like this was money well spent five minutes into my $15 investment.  Be not deceived, listeners.  Of course "Daughters" would have sounded right at home on Let It Bleed.  When the hell did that become a bad thing?

"Walk Believer Walk" is a convincing 21st Century slice of classic rock and classic blues. Rhythm guitarist Rich Robinson's guitar grinds hard with some sinister snarl while Dickinson's slide stings almost as hard and sweet as anything that ever came out of Chicago.  Too bad the Maxim fraud didn't wait to hear this song before panning the record.  His educated guess that Warpaint was going to be more of the same from a band that has allegedly never played an original note in their career is as fraudulent a conclusion as the review itself.  I haven't heard every note of every BC record nor have I heard them sound better than they do with Dickinson.  I don't know if that amounts to musical growth but it sure as hell isn't more of the same.

Fellow Blogcritics writer El Bicho praised the band's ability to craft memorable ballads.  I don't know that I've ever heard anyone mention that about them but he's absolutely right and "Oh Josephine" is a great example.  Chris Robinson's penchant for doing and saying some dumb things has made it easier for critics to marginalize him.  Try marginalizing him after listening to a beautiful song like "Oh Josephine."  Try marginalizing him after listening to any of these first three songs.  He may not be the greatest singer or songwriter of his generation but when he's at his best – and this opening trifecta is indeed the man at his best – these comparison games seem quite silly.

"Evergreen" is a little heavy on the Robinson's dippy hippy imagery and the chorus is inferior to the verses but the song is pleasant.  "We Who See The Deep" is also a little heavy on hippy rhymes but is backed by a massive riff from the school of Keith Richards and Jimmy Page.  Robinson morphs into a cross between John Lennon and Robert Plant on the psychedelic-tinged "Movin' On Down The Line."  None of these songs are awful nor do they distinguish themselves.  Dickinson's playing feels less prominent on this group of tracks, relegating them to listenable but not memorable status.

Rich Robinson gets things fired back up again with a stomp-and-groove riff on "Wounded Bird."  Robinson's riff reinvigorates Dickinson, whose slide is once again a force.  If only Steve Forman would lay off the seizure-inducing cymbals during the last minute of the song.  That prolonged Alex Van Halen-styled aggravation makes my heard hurt.  Despite that, "Bird" rocks hard and kicks the album back in gear.

They follow that with a cover of "God's Got It."  It's not revelatory in any way but it's not bad listening.  Dickinson's sting transforms to lyrical when he swaps his electric guitar for an acoustic on album closer "Whoa Mule."  With a Duane Allman-like touch, Dickinson's work in effect becomes a second lead vocal and gives the song a wonderful life, closing the album on a high note.

About Josh Hathaway

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    Your closing paragraph sums the band up quite well. I can’t wait to see these new songs performed live. I missed their mini-tour in March, but hope to catch them in April if I don’t go to Coachella.

    You know who else was good at flipping the bird to their critics, Bauhaus. They were accused of stealing from glam acts like T Rex and Bowie, so they then covered songs by them.

    Thanks for the mention.

  • http://www.confessionsofafanboy.com Josh Hathaway

    My pleasure. I thought you really captured that Maxim bullshit brilliantly. That was one of the most stunning incidents of journalistic fraud I’ve ever seen.

    Do you know if Dickinson is touring with them? He was stellar on the record. I’d love to hear them live, especially if he’s out there with them.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    Yeah, Luther is on tour with them. Do yourself a favor and go see them. There are some live clips on YouTube and at VH1 you can see them live acoustic on Goodbye, Walk, and Locust.

    That fraud goes by the name David Peisner for anyone passing by.

  • http://www.confessionsofafanboy.com Josh Hathaway

    I’ll have to go check out those clips. I obviously like this record and particularly what Dickinson added to their sound. I might have to make a point of getting out to see them on the tour.

    Speaking of The Black Crowes and live… do you have a favorite among the different live packages they’ve released?

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    The only official live release I have is with Jimmy Page where they mostly did Zep tunes. Everything else I have I downloaded from bt.etree.org.

  • http://www.confessionsofafanboy.com Josh Hathaway

    11 bought their cover of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” off of their most recent 2CD live album from iTunes, but he tells me that’s a Southern thing. Apparently all Southerners rise when that song is played (this is said with tongue in cheek, but he does like their version of it quite a lot).

    I might have to try and score one of these.