Record Review: The Black Crowes' 'Before the Frost . . . Until the Freeze'

The Black Crowes' new release features country, folk and bluegrass touches.
The Black Crowes' new release features country, folk and bluegrass touches. (By Matthew Mendenhall)
Friday, August 28, 2009

THE BLACK CROWES

"Before the Frost . . . Until the Freeze"

Kindred spirits: Little Feat, Humble Pie

Show: Sunday at Rams Head Live, Baltimore. Doors open at 7 p.m. 410-244-1131. http://www.ramsheadlive.com

You listen to some decades-old bands and discover they make the same album over and over again. Sometimes it works; often it doesn't.

It's refreshing when you have a band such as the Black Crowes, which has always sprinkled bluegrass, folk and even country into its signature sound, making it the musical equivalent of a glass prism.

Such is the case with the band's very-much-under-wraps release "Before the Frost," which comes with a code that allows purchasers to download a free companion disc, "Until the Freeze."

The new album, which will be released Monday, was finalized and recorded before 200 guests at the Levon Helms Studio in Woodstock, N.Y. It's an audio beauty.

"I Ain't Hiding" has just the right mix of Rich Robinson's ready-to-burst-out-of-control guitar work and Chris Robinson's slightly uppity vocal 'tude to almost guarantee it will be a major hit.

"And the Band Played On" is a peppy number with the Crowes' classic sound melding with something akin to a later-day Beatles song about travel, raising glasses in the air and a jolly good fellow.

"Until the Freeze" continues the Crowes' musical banquet with songs such as the Celtic-tinged "Aimless Peacock," which brings sitar, violins, harmonica and a charming chorus together to weave a rich musical tale. For pure, laid-back folk/country, the banjo-led "Shine Along" is a musical trip to the bayous.

The Black Crowes are coming up on their 20th anniversary, but the music has never sounded fresher.

-- Nancy Dunham


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