Robinson’s third album of extra-curricular activity away from The Black Crowes was recorded at Applehead studios in Woodstock, New York, by a core trio including regular solo collaborator and sometime Crowes touring drummer Joe Magistro and keyboard player Marco Benevento.
So is The Ceaseless Sight a kind of busman’s holiday or a break from the day job?
A little bit of both. Like Robinson’s previous solo releases Paper (2004) and Through A Crooked Sun (2011), the new set coincides with a period of hiatus for the Crowes, but the band’s vibe inevitably seep through, not surprising perhaps when Rich’s guitar is such a major component of their signature sound. It’s especially evident on I Know You and the multi-tracked grind of The Unfortunate Show. Elsewhere, though, it’s a more laconic beast, channelling the likes of Ry Cooder (I Have A Feeling) and the sepia-toned Americana of The Band (Down The Road, One Tree Hill).
Should we be sounding alarm bells and shouting “disjointed” or “schizophrenic”, then?
Not at all. If anything, Robinson is being more true to his muse than on Crowes records, free of the subconscious self-editing he may have employed when fashioning music for the band to fit a perceived template. The earlier solo offerings were made much more in the shadow of a monster group than what, by comparison, comes across as a more spontaneous set.
Isn’t “spontaneous” just another word for “made up as he went along”?
Maybe, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. “This record represents a movement forward,” he says. “I went into the studio with a much more open process. I had skeletons of songs instead of finished pieces. I wanted to use the energy of having to create on the spot.”
Doesn’t it miss the sparks that sibling rivalry brought to Crowes records? How does Robinson fare as the sole dictatorial force?
History has shown us, from the Everlys to Oasis and beyond, that sibling rivalry can be as disruptive as it can be creative, and clashes between the Robinson boys have occasionally threatened to derail the Crowes. And although it’s Rich’s name on the label, what shines through is a fairly democratic groove proffered by three men in telepathic sync.
So, we’ve got a bit of the Crowes, a bit of Cooder and a bit of The Band. Any other notable influences?
Well, once a Faces fan always a Faces fan, but whereas the Crowes allow Robinson to live out his Ronnie Wood fantasies, The Ceaseless Sight finds him closer to the mellow mindset of Ronnie Lane.