Telluride Blues and Blues | September 18
By Brian F. Johnson
Years ago on his website, Rich Robinson had a photograph that could have made most guitar stores bashful about their inventory. The picture was from a guest room in Robinson’s home, where guitar cases were stacked floor to ceiling, towering over the door jam. The snapshot was accompanied by a written list of the contents of each case and, not shockingly, it contained some incredibly rare, incredibly gorgeous and incredibly expensive guitars.
Most of them are gone now.
Robinson, who co-founded The Black Crowes with his brother Chris at the age of 15, had so much gear that he eventually put a lot of it into a storage facility and when Hurricane Sandy pounded the East Coast in 2012, that storage facility flooded, destroying Robinson’s epic collection. But somehow the loss ended up fitting perfectly into what Robinson was feeling and writing as he prepared for his third solo album The Ceaseless Sight.
On the track “Down the Road” Robinson sings “Into the day we’ll ride away, and never to go backwards on our road again,” and during an interview with The Marquee, Robinson explained that sentiment was a direct result of learning how to dump excess baggage in life, which the hurricane only helped to reinforce.
“I look at my life as a life on the move — constantly on the road and on tour and constantly changing perspective, but on the flip side, constantly holding on to the past and holding on to problems. And finally I got to this point where I was like ‘That’s absurd. That’s not a cool way to live,’ and this is the way to move forward and I need to dump all of that and move away,” Robinson said. “I went in to the studio to record this album shortly after Hurricane Sandy flooded all of my guitars and most of my amps and just a ton of shit, but it was kind of cathartic and cool that the water can take that energy and shift it into a new place and I really felt that it was gone and that there was a positivity in place. It gives you a parameter where you have to deal and work with it, and by working with it that frees you up because there’s nothing to bog you down, and that was the whole purpose of the record. Looking backwards is like driving while looking in the rear view mirror. You’re never seeing anything but the past and where you’ve been and that’s what this record is about — a freedom from that.”
In early 2013, at Applehead Recording in Woodstock, N.Y., Robinson, percussionist Joe Magistro, and keyboardist Marco Benevento, recorded the album just days before Robinson set off on the Crowes’ final “Lay Down With Number 13” tour. The Ceaseless Sight was released in early June of 2014 both digitally and in a four-side vinyl collection that includes an instrumental EP on the final side.
The album is a bluesy rocker that Rolling Stone’s David Fricke called “A bullseye, lyrically spiritual, musically earthy balance of electric-blues bravado, psychedelic-country exploration and almost courtly vocal cool,” which despite its message of looking forward, is solidly rooted in Robinson’s musical past.
“There’s not a lot of Black Crowes records being made right now and a lot of that is because of how differently Chris and I see music,” Robinson said. “You know, he wants to delve into The Grateful Dead and the jam scene and I still love songs and writing songs. It’s not a matter of me looking back it’s just that these are the songs that come from me. So that’s the record I made.”
The album ends with the beautiful instrumental “Obscure The Day,” which Robinson said originally had lyrics. “Sometimes less is more. I like the feeling that can create. I had written lyrics for it, but I kept listening to it and decided, let’s not fuck with this,” he said. The final track blends smoothly into the instrumental EP which Robinson said he wanted to explore simply for the enjoyment of it all. “I just wanted to try some more acoustic-y instrumental songs for fun and it was,” he said.
For the tour Robinson hand-selected his band, which includes Magistro, keyboardist Matt Slocum (Tedeschi, Herring) and Gordy Johnson on bass, and that group may end up being Robinson’s band for some time. While The Black Crowes have famously broken up or gone on hiatus before, things became particularly nasty earlier this year. On social media, Rich posted, “I love my brother and respect his talent but his present demand that I must give up my equal share of the band and that our drummer for 28 years and original partner, Steve Gorman, relinquish 100 percent of his share, reducing him to a salaried employee, is not something I could agree to.”
Telluride Blues and Blues | September 18
Go If You Dig:
- Neil Young
- Warren Haynes
- Jason Isbell