The Black Crowes get lost only to find something better with ‘Before the Frost’
A swagger. A straw hat. A red blues guitar. Disco dance moves. A sly grin.
You’ll find all of it on Before the frost … Until the Freeze. The album boasts some of the best cuts the Black Crowes have to offer but better.
The new addition of Luther Dickinson (of North Mississippi Allstars) is present from the first guitar twang to the wanton lyrics of the last tracks. This is not the Black Crowes of the 1990’s; this is somewhere
The album’s first track, “Good Morning Captain,” is a sure sign that the 20 track album is more than just good ole’ southern music.
It’s definitely blues but the piano chops are pop, the lyrics country, and the guitar a very distinct brand of rock, as only the Robinson brothers can do.
But don’t let the order fool you. The album is ripe with everything from country to disco, as evident on “I Ain’t Hiding.”
The reverberated vocals of Chris Robinson is perfectly paired to a syncopated beat and only matched by electric guitar riffs mid-song. This is Black Crowes hip hop, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the club scene picked up the track which champions late night escapades, “keep on rocking ‘cause it’s not even four.”
If the disco beats weren’t shocking enough to fans, “Garden Gate” will either upset a mash of headbangers or delightfully surprise those with country tendencies. The song could not be more country, but shies away from a pop feel instead opting for a folksy one.
The album in whole was recorded live in Levon Helm’s barn-studio, and perhaps that’s where this song belongs: to breezy barnyard doors occupied by wandering fiddlers.
The singer is awaiting a secret love, truly one that fans with understand. Perhaps, like the Black Crowes, they will shed their hardcore southern rock shells for a more tender country one, and thus proceed to the beautiful simplicity that is track 15, “Greenhorn.”
The most eclectic of the mix is the instrumental “Aimless Peacock.” The song is a psychedelic mix of sitar, harmonica and violin. It’s a magic mix of a culture infusion: not Irish, not Indian, not country and not quite just a jig. If you follow this track with “Roll Old Jeremiah” or even “Appaloosa,” listeners will find themselves back in the early 70’s, where the rock roots of the Black Crowes bleed through the new electric funnel sound that pervade all tracks.
On the whole, the album is testament to the creative genius that is the Black Crowes. Before the Frost … Until the Freeze is a sonic backdrop of soul-infused rock.
It’s part Crow, part Rolling Stones, and part Grateful Dead. Hardcore followers claim favorites off the big three, the former albums The Southern Harmony, Three Snakes and One Charm, and Amorica.
They will need to make room for one more.
88.1 WKNC Pick of the Week is published in every Thursday print edition of the Technician, as well as online at technicianonline.com and wknc.org.