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The Black Crowes - Before the Frost... Until the Freeze
a double helping of Americana
Review by Tony BonyataSomewhere between their early '90s albums and their eighth and latest studio album, Before The Frost... The Black Crowes have gone from sounding like The Rolling Stones, circa Exile On Main Street, to the more rich and fertile Americana sounds produced by The Band at the height of their career. Of course considering that this was recorded in front of a small, intimate group of fans at Levon Helm's barn/studio in Woodstock, NY it's little wonder that some of The Band's spirit would rub off on them (Helm was the drummer and vocalist for The Band throughout their entire career).
The physical package only contains one CD, titled Before The Frost... , but, as a 'thank you' to their fans for two decades of continued support, they've also included a card with a unique code to download a second full album - ... Until The Freeze. While both compliment each other nicely, they also sound very different from one another. Before The Frost... features more of the stomping, ornery Southern-fried rock & roll the band is known for. The album kicks off with the rocking swagger of "Good Morning Captain" before a heavy metal-meets-funk guitar riff tears through the fiery "Been A Long Time (Waiting On Love)." "Kept My Soul" is a slice of greasy country funk and, despite their clashing differences in the past, brothers Chris (vocals) and Rich Robinson (guitars), mesh perfectly on numbers such as the lovely and spirited "A Train Still Makes A Lonely Sound" and the cock-proud strut of "Make Glad."
While Before The Frost... also contains a couple of more restrained numbers such as the acoustic-kissed "What Is Home" and "The Last Place That Love Lives," it's the bonus album ... Until The Freeze that really digs in deep to the soul of Americana music. Timeless country and folk songs such as "Aimless Peacock," "Garden Gate" and "Lady Of Avenue A" all sound as they were carted down from the Appalachian mountains on the broadside of a pack mule during the Great Depression. And on the gritty blues growler "Shine Along 128" you can envision the band hopping a boxcar from Clarksdale, MS to the Carolinas with little more than their well-worn instruments and jug of white lightning. The album closes appropriately with the introspective southern gospel number "Fork in the River," where Chris croons, "A fork in the river is where we begin"; perhaps realizing that in order for The Black Crowes to build on the future, they must keep the circle unbroken by looking to America's rich musical past.
Fans of the Allman Brothers, Little Feat, The Band and even The Grateful Dead (and I'm not even one of the latter) will love this terrific double set from one of America's best.
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