Ex-Crowes guitarist searches still for the perfect note
Despite the demise of The Black Crowes, Rich Robinson has never been one to settle on his laurels and disappear into a life of anchoritic seclusion; sitting in front of the fire or on his porch ruminating over better days and missed opportunities. Flux is Robinson’s fourth solo album and reveals a musician who isn’t about to give up the ghost just yet. And while Crowes devotees will no doubt miss the chemistry of the former band he originally founded with his brother Chris, there is more than enough soul and energy going on to please even the most discerning blues-rock fan.
Opener “The Upstairs Land” sets the tone nicely, like Mick Taylor-meets Santana, only with far less ambition. Robinson hasn’t the greatest of singing voices, but what he lacks in vocal strength he more than makes up for in conviction. “Shipwreck” and “The Music That Will Lift Me” are both uplifting country-rockers, while “Everything’s Alright” sounds like a Stones/Small Faces collaboration circa 1973.
Robinson reveals his inner light on the psychedelic-funk of “Eclipse The Night,” followed by “Life,” a number which invokes memories of early Allman Brothers, and would not seem out of place on any mid- 90’s Black Crowes record either for that matter. He resembles Ian Anderson throughout the folk-rock inspired “Ides Of Nowhere,” playing riffs that few guitarists have played in perhaps over forty years.
He bares his heart on ballad “Time To Leave,” reaches for the stars via Nick Drake (one of his favourite artists) with “Astral,” before channelling the ghosts of Greg Allman and George Harrison on “For To Give.” One thing’s for sure, Robinson has certainly done his homework, therefore no prizes for guessing which decade dominates his record collection.
“Which Way Your Wind Blows” has Rich in Jimmy Page mode, unleashing a flurry of raw, distorted guitar notes straight off Jack Bruce and Robin Trower’s 2008 Seven Moons. He balladeers his way through “Surrender,” before concluding the album with the Led Zeppelin oriented “Sleepwalker,” a song that is a cross between “Kashmir” and “The Ocean,” minus either of those tunes grandiosity it might be added.
Rich Robinson’s guitar chops have certainly matured over the years since he started out as a young teenager with The Black Crowes, writing classic riffs amidst a sea of musical mediocrity in the early ‘90s (with a few exceptions of course). Each one of his solo albums has been akin to peeling back the layers of an onion, to reveal, if not a mind tortured by time, then at least one committed to the art of expression.
Whether he will ever manage to repair the rift between him and his brother remains to be seen. And if not, then there is always the next Rich Robinson record to look forward to.