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Interview:
Black Crowes' Chris Robinson stays in flight with his Brotherhood band
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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Chris Robinson is at odds with his brother and his bandmates in the Black Crowes. Again.

But this time he has the Brotherhood to see him through.

The Crowes came to seemingly abrupt end in mid-January when guitarist Rich Robinson, the singer's younger brother, issued a public statement declaring that "the band has broken up" and blaming Chris' demands for more money and greater control over the band, which included putting drummer and co-founder Steve Gorman on salary. The schism comes as the Crowes' debut album, the five-times platinum "Shake Your Money Maker," turns 25, though it seems clear the band, which was already in the midst of one of its periodic hiatus. won't be getting together to celebrate.

Chris Robinson maintains that the break-up is "way more complicated than Rich's public outburst," but as he takes his Chris Robinson Brotherhood around the country -- including a show Saturday, Feb. 7, at the Crofoot Ballroom in Pontiac -- he declines to get into a war or words.

"No matter what's going on out there, I'm going to keep my personal, private family business personal and private," says the Georgia-born Robinson, 48, who now resides with is wife and manager Allison, their daughter and his son Ryder from his previous marriage to actress Kate Hudson. "The Black Crowes is so much time and it's so complicated and then you mix family into it...

"To me it's just sad and it's disappointing, really, and it's unfortunate. I'll just focus on all the other things that are...more important than the drama."

Robinson has let it be known that the CRB is on equal footing with the Black Crowes since he formed the group in 2011 with guitarist and co-writer Neal Casal. The quintet, which also includes Crowes keyboardist Adam MacDougal, introduced itself with a 118-date tour around North America and still maintains a heavy touring schedule, and along the way it's released three studio albums -- including last year's "Phosphorescent Harvest" -- and a live set recorded and curated by longtime Grateful Dead cohort Betty Cantor-Jackson.

"Here we are, just this little band that's doing our thing," says Robinson. "I think we forged an identity so quickly -- well, over a period of that first year, 118 shows. But we know what the CRB sounds like to us. We instantly know if we feel something is cliched or hackneyed. We kind of have an aesthetic that we follow, so there's no, like, 'Where does this song fit? What is this?' We just don't do things that don't feel natural and organic to us."

The CRB is also fiercely independent, too, avoiding the mainstream music industry and playing long, heavily improvised jams that mine the same psychedelic Grateful Dead/Allman Brothers Band territory that increasingly informed the Black Crowes approach. The CRB takes it even further, however, with, Robinson says, no pressure or expectations of hit singles or platinum record sales.

"Being self-indulgent in 2015 sounds cool," Robinson says with a laugh. "The traditional record business model doesn't work for creative, sensitive people who want to do recordings or who want to write song that don't have any edition for corporate purposes or commercial purposes or who want to put the time and energy and blood and sweat and passion into their scene.

"My idea about great artistry and the artists that inspired me, whether it be naive or altruistic or whatever, is that in the face of convention I have to stick with what I feel. that's given me the rare and unique opportunity to express myself and do this for a long time, because I've never taken that lightly."

With the Crowes officially nested (for now; this has happened at least twice before, after all), the CRB is keeping its schedule heavy. Robinson says the band will be on the road for much of 2015, with another live album -- "Betty's Blend Volume 2: The Best From the West" -- due out on vinyl in May. With new drummer Tony Leone being integrated into the group Robinson says the CRB won't start another studio album until next year, but he's looking forward to working with this band without the specter of another hanging over it.

"As painful as change is for everyone, it's also great," Robinson notes. "It's a great relief in a sense as well, because now it's (the CRB) and we move along."

Chris Robinson Brotherhood

Saturday, Feb. 7. Doors open at 8 p.m.

The Crofoot Ballroom, 1 S.Saginaw St., Pontiac.

Tickets are $20 in advance, $24 day of show.

Call 248-858-9333 or visit www.thecrofoot.com.


Web Site: www.thecrofoot.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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