On a first listen (and yes, I did actually listen to it), I'm not really sure what to make of the new Black Crowes' record.
The good news here is that thankfully, the Robinson brothers seem to have recovered from that musical fog they were in during much of the mid-nineties. During those years, on albums like Amorica, it often seemed like the Black Crowes had lost their mojo. They couldn't seem to decide whether they wanted to be the modern day version of the Faces everybody knew and loved them for being — or something closer to a hippie jam band like the Grateful Dead.
So, that's the good news.
However, for fans yearning for a return to the commercial heyday of albums like Shake Your Money Maker and album-rock hits like "Hard To Handle," — well, sorry to burst your bubble. Warpaint isn't exactly a return to the arena rocking glory days of this band either.
Actually, Warpaint is the Black Crowes most distinctly southern sounding album to date. Make that southern, and relaxed as well. Which has to be something of a new experience for the Robinson brothers, two of the most famously feuding set of musical siblings this side of the Davies brothers in the Kinks, or the Gallaghers of Oasis.
Warpaint in fact, finds the Robinsons sounding uncharacteristically mellow. Oh, make no mistake, this record does rock. But there's a decidedly backporch, and dare I say, "down home" sort of quality about the songs on Warpaint. For the first time since as far back as The Southern Harmony And Musical Companion, the Black Crowes here also seem to have abandoned their Faces, Humble Pie, and Exile era Stones retro pretenses.
Well, almost anyway...
The slide guitar and laid back bluesy riffing of the opening "Goodbye Daughters Of The Revolution," certainly does recall parts of Exile, though it owes much more to songs like "Sweet Virginia" than to "Rocks Off" or "Tumblin' Dice." Okay, maybe there's just a touch of "All Down The Line" in there too, when Chris Robinson picks up the vocal intensity, and brother Rich responds in kind.
"Oh, Josephine" comes even closer to the spirit of Exile's more gospel influenced tracks, as Robinson sings the lyrics about "waiting for redemption" over a piano that could have come straight from Nicky Hopkins himself. Meanwhile, "God's Got It" sounds like nothing so much as the Black Crowes taking that same gospel and moving it from the pulpit to the dirty blues of "Shake Your Hips."