Earlier this year, the Chris Robinson Brotherhood released Any Way You Love, We Know How You Feel, which ended up being one of my favorite albums both out of all their previous releases as well as in general for 2016. Three months later, on November 4, they added a bit of fuel to the fire on my internal debate over whether they’d finally become my favorite band – they have – by releasing a five-track companion EP named If You Lived Here, You Would Be Home by Now.
The songs on the collection were all recorded during the same sessions that ultimately resulted in the full-length album. A few of them had even been played during live performances while the band was on tour during the three months between releases, especially tracks such as “New Cannonball Rag” and “Roan County Banjo.”
By all accounts, Chris Robinson has stated that while they were working on their album and trying to figure out the sequencing, the five songs that make up this EP just kind of inherently fit together all on their own as if they wanted to tell their own little story separately from the album and yet still be a part of the story the band itself tries to tell each night on tour. Now that I’ve had a chance to listen to the EP at least a few dozen times, I can certainly understand why he might have said that.
I’m sure one or two of these songs could have been squeezed into Any Way You Love, We Know How You Feel without substantially altering the vibe of the release, but I’m glad they didn’t go that route. These songs fit together and serve as a nice refreshment after the main course – kind of like a tall glass of iced tea after a delicious meal. On its own, the EP allows you to take slow sips and relax as you digest the meal you just finished, without overwhelming or mixing the flavors had you tried to partake of both at the same time.
Beginning with “New Cannonball Rag,” the EP begins on a fairly midtempo and luxurious groove that’s reminiscent of the more psychedelic flavor of their debut album. As an album opener, you could look for a long time to find a more ebullient offering.
Next up is “Shadow Cosmos,” a sultry little prayer of a love song with a sublime chorus that truly shows how well Robinson’s voice is matched with Neal Casal. Never rushed in its melody or lyricism, this song may be simple but sturdily stands tall as testimony to the strength of the band’s musicianship at this point in their history.
From there we go to the uptempo spacey wonderfulness of “Roan County Banjo,” which the band had been playing fairly regularly on their live shows, despite it never having appeared on a proper release. Surprise! Here it is, and it sounds just as playful and joyful as any of the live recordings I’ve had the pleasure of listening to. In the end, I think that might be the biggest thing I take away from this EP and the proper LP it followed. While Robinson always had to deal with the notion that the Black Crowes were always better live over studio recordings, this new band of brothers he’s found to accompany him on his musical journeys are just as good in front of a producer as they are a crowd.
“From the North Garden,” the second to last track, adds to that (in my mind at least), as it is just this gorgeous instrumental that languidly sprawls across four minutes of time and infinite space. As much as I love Rich Robinson’s guitar playing in the Black Crowes, this is not a song I think that band would have ever been capable of. The Brotherhood nearly channels George Harrison relaxing with a guitar and sitar after spending an entire day communing with nature and his yogi. If you have stress in your life, listen to this song – a lot.
Ending the release is “Sweet Sweet Lullaby,” the one song that I could easily have seen going on the proper full-length album that preceded this EP, only I’m glad they held it for this moment, as it provides a nice ending to a very nice experience. There are some harmonies between Chris Robinson and Casal that are some of the easiest and free-flowing since their debut album.
I’m sure you can guess by now that the Chris Robinson Brotherhood have managed to become one of the bands that earn my purchase automatically, before I’ve managed to hear note one on any of the songs. Over the past five years, these guys – Chris Robinson and Neal Casal – have managed to build a sound and a feeling in their music that I wasn’t even aware I’d been craving or suffering a deficiency in.
If You Lived Here, You Would Be Home by Now is sublime and well worth the listen.