There was a noticeable lack of accord when the Black Crowes finally called it a day early last year, after an on-off career that lasted more than a quarter-century. The split was largely due to the deteriorating relationship between the brothers Robinson (singer Chris and guitarist Rich), the siblings publicly admitting that however hard they tried to see the bigger picture, they just couldn’t get on. They weren’t the first pair of siblings to break up a rock’n’roll band, of course, but it’s noticeable how Chris has been keen to emphasise the feelgood vibes of his current project the Chris Robinson Brotherhood.
As the name above the door suggests, their music is full to brimming with convivial warmth, the product of proudly hirsute gents who look like the last vestige of some promised hippie ideal from the early 70s. And while there are rich echoes of Sly Stone, Canned Heat and The Band in the dazzling music they make, there’s very little that’s retro. Rather, in keeping with Robinson’s highly organic, farm-to-table aesthetic, they plunder the past to irrigate a boldly expansive new vision.
Anyway You Love, We Know How You Feel is full of things we’ve become accustomed to over the band’s previous three albums: psychedelic trippiness, carefree country-soul, swampy southern rock rolled out under a baking California sun. Yet it’s also wonderfully loose and instinctive, as liable to meander into a cosmic jam as it is to splash around with psychotropic keyboard licks or slide into the swampy cool of a slide-guitar groove.
This voyaging frontier spirit serves to make the Black Crowes sound reductive by comparison. You can understand why Robinson may have wanted to draw a line under his old band. Especially when you hear something as hands-down gorgeous as Narcissus Soaking Wet, in which he and CRB – guitarist Neal Casal, keyboard player Adam MacDougall, new drummer Tony Leone, bassist George Reiff (who has since left) – cook up some righteous psych-funk worthy of Parliament or 70s prime Stevie Wonder. Or the rolling majesty of California Hymn, which feels like a modern transmutation of The Band, right down to its brief appropriation of the turnaround riff from The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.
‘Round here we got nothin’ but time,’ Robinson intones on the blissful summer reverie of Oak Apple Day, inviting us all to relax our minds and drink in the stars. It’s futile trying to resist.