For years I have been a fan of Chris Robinson. Initially, much like everyone I suppose, I first heard and became a fan through his work with the Black Crowes. Afterwards, as the Crowes seemed to disintegrate like many other bands driven by two brothers, I found myself purchasing and loving his two solo albums – so much so that when the Crowes reunited I found myself being a bit disappointed. On his solo albums, you see, he’d explored a softer and more inwardly examining side than he had as part of that powerful southern rock and blues rock outfit.
When the Crowes eventually managed to self-destruct again – despite putting out what I personally think is their best album in decades, Before the Frost… – I thought I might get to listen to another gorgeous solo album. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised with the new band that seemed to rise from the ashes of the Crowes, the Chris Robinson Brotherhood.
I’m not going into the irony of him leaving a band with his actual brother and forming a band with Brotherhood in its name despite not having his brother as part of it. The wondrous spacey jam rock that the Brotherhood blew forth from my speakers with 2012’s Big Moon Ritual and The Magic Door up through 2014’s Phosphorescent Harvest closed the door on any regret I might have had at there (so far) not being a solo record on the horizon.
Sounding like some cosmic lovechild of the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers, the Brotherhood was exactly the evolution in sound that I’d hoped would come from all the years of fronting the Crowes and the introspective songwriting that came from his solo albums. Even better, however, was the fact that as good as these guys played on the studio albums, they’ve taken the seeds of their own songs and allowed them to blossom on the road. They have mercilessly toured and shared their music with anyone and everyone.
In 2013, much to my delight at the time, they even expanded upon that by asking the Grateful Dead’s record producer, Betty Cantor-Jackson, to record five nights of shows in San Fransisco (some 96 songs altogether) and select her favorites for a very limited release entitled Betty’s S.F. Blends, Volume One. My goodness did I love that album, and even more so the fact that they ultimately decided to release the five shows in their entirety as digital downloads.
Volume One, however, led me to think there would be more volumes forthcoming, but that didn’t seem to be happening. Sure, the band released a new studio album afterwards and kept on touring, but throughout 2014 and the first quarter of 2015, there was nothing to be heard of what might happen in regards to any future recordings.
Of course, all of those words and all of my babbling in this review up until now were just to set up the fact that in my grubby hands – and playing in my grubbier headphones for the past few weeks – is the second volume I’d been waiting for. Out on June 2, Betty’s Blends, Volume Two: Best from the West, features a seven-track collection of songs again recorded and mixed by the legendary Cantor-Jackson. They were culled from performances captured throughout the Brotherhood’s 2014 summer tour of the western states.
Though only seven songs deep, this live recording will sit and reverberate in your ears and mind for hours upon hours. Where the first volume was a wonderfully deep and rich exploration of what this band was all about as it grew and discovered itself on the road, this time around you can feel that this is a band confident in their own sound and wanting to do nothing more than share the joy they find in playing music together for all of their fans.
If the first volume was the live concert you came to see with all the lights, raucous fans, noise, and excitement, this new release is the encore that comes out in its own good time and tells you in no uncertain terms that the band appreciates every single one in attendance and wants to let them know they love you. If a better statement of love and joy for playing music can be found, say, than the spacey and spaciously gorgeous 15-minute opening track, “Vibration & Light Suite,” I’m not sure it’s something I’ve ever experienced.
If you are going to try to experience this album, though, you’re going to have to move quickly and hope for the best. True to a sense of doing it themselves for the fans, this is an record that will be released only on 2,000 vinyl copies, 2,000 CDs, and 2,000 digital downloads.
Once it’s gone, it’s gone, so please go grab a copy before that happens. I promise you that if you are a fan of the Brotherhood or (as I am) of Chris Robinson at all, you will love this, and it will leave you wanting more. I know it has me… I’m already itching for volume three.
[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00UVCHYBA][amazon template=iframe image&asin=B008BR3Q0U][amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00PO5DB8E][amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00FDZ99KO]