Album Review

The Black Crowes, 'Before the Frost .../... Until the Freeze'

September 14, 2009

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The Black Crowes Before the Frost .../... Until the Freeze
Silver Arrow
ESSENTIAL “Been a Long Time (Waiting on Love)’’

The latest incarnation of The Black Crowes - most notable for bringing Luther Dickinson into the group helmed by brothers Chris and Rich Robinson - has fully matured with the twofer “Before the Frost . . .’’ and “. . . Until the Freeze,’’ the latter available as a download after purchasing the former. The separation makes sense, as “Frost’’ is prime Crowes, a set of songs about dudes who are buzzed, crooked, and haunted, all delivered with bluesy swagger and infused with psychedelic spirit. Guitarists Dickinson and Rich Robinson shine on each track. Singer Chris Robinson crafts detailed and layered tales that conjure a unified band vision. Country-leaning “Freeze’’ is more experimental, albeit in laidback fashion. The Crowes delve into hippie square-dance jams and bluegrass gospel tunes with an earnest zeal, though style trumps substance on most of the tracks. A cover of Stephen Stills’s “So Many Times,’’ though, is among the finer performances of the full 20-song offering. The project was recorded before audiences in Levon Helm’s barn and aptly utilizes the Crowes’ potent live presence. (Out now)