The Black Crowes Flap into Town on the Wings of a New Double Album

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Wow, has it really been two decades since The Black Crowes released their debut album Shake Your Money Maker? Just about, kids, that disc dropped in January 1990.

Almost 20 years later, the Crowes are many things to many people, depending on when you came to their party: classic rock revivalists, Southern rock torchbearers, jam band, blues band, rock band, Americana band, etc.

It seems the group has come full circle from their beginnings as Stones/Faces traditionalists -- in the very depths of the hair metal era, mind you -- to being embraced as a true classic rock band in their own right.

And they earned that respect the old-fashioned way, on the road. While the group has never enjoyed a greater presence on the sales charts than they did with their debut, their subsequent recordings have shown increasing artistic depth and garnered them a loyal audience that continues to support their live shows.

The Crowes' new two disc set Before The Frost...Until The Freeze blends the studio and live experiences as it was recorded before a small audience. The band's energy crackles from the get-go with lead-off track "Good Morning Captain," setting the template of bluesy melodies buoyed by the twin guitar work of Rich Robinson and Luther Dickinson (who also fronts North Mississippi Allstars). Singer Chris Robinson's well-worn voice perfectly complements the band's sonic melting pot of American musical genres. The group may not have invented this sound, but after 20 years of working within it, who can claim to do it better today? The Crowes' music is warm and inviting, familiar and fresh at the same time, particularly "I Ain't Hiding" with its disco bassline sounding like an update of The Stones' "Miss You."

...Until the Freeze -- available as a free download with purchase of the Before the Frost... CD -- is a more acoustic-driven and country-infused affair than its sibling. The fiddles and pedal steels that flow in and out of various tunes suit the songs well as the Crowes further expand their sonic palette. On both albums, the audience is unobtrusive and imperceptible save for some brief between-song applause.

The Black Crowes are scheduled to perform at the Arizona State Fair at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 22. Free with fair admission, $15 for reserved seats.

Before The Frost...Until The Freeze is available now.

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