Croweology 101

by Liza Mitchell
The Black Crowes weren’t trying to reinvent the wheel with the release of their new CD Croweology. They just wanted to give it a fresh spin.
It’s been 20 years since the Crowe’s first debuted their raucous, southern-fried rock album Shake Your Money Maker. The new double disc Croweology is a love letter, celebrating that milestone with stripped-down acoustic renditions of such Crowes classics as ‘Remedy,’ ‘Jealous Again’ and ‘Thorn in my Pride.’
“We wanted to do something to acknowledge the fact that it has been 20 years since [we released] our first record. If it’s promoting anything, it’s the Black Crowes,” drummer Steve Gorman said in a recent telephone interview. “We didn’t want to re-release our first album. That’s like re-releasing your prom picture. We didn’t want to do a retrospective. This is something new and fresh to us. It’s a very current look back. We are a different band sonically than we were back then. We are not out to outdo or compete with the original.”
The band breathes new life into the lighter-raising ballad ‘She Talks to Angels’ as front man Chris Robinson’s soulful tones lift the melody to new heights. The old Crowes are showcasing their new tricks in an epic North American tour, offering a 90-minute “Acoustic Hors d’oeuvres” set followed by 90 minutes of “Electric Reception.” The Black Crowes will perform Tuesday, September 21 at The Florida Theatre.
Gorman said Croweology has been warmly received and the tour in support of its release ‘Say Good Night to the Bad Guys’ is going well. The band, he said, “is in a really good place” for the first time in, well, ever.
The project was cathartic for the band members whose former divide was evident even before it happened. As one of the original players, Gorman flew the coop in 2002 only to return to the nest in 2005. The brothers Robinson checked out as well, with both Chris and Rich delving into solo projects before coming back into the fold.
“If we were still those people, we would have wasted 20 years. Like any band our age, you make mistakes ands hopefully you can learn from them,” Gorman said. “It was easy to find our groove [on stage]. This is the most cohesive the band has ever been. I love where we are now and I think if you asked the rest of the band they would say the same thing.”
The Black Crowes have, indeed, risen like a phoenix from the ashes of a successful yet turbulent firestorm. The cocky bravado, fisticuffs and tales of excess that once clung to them like stale smoke have been replaced with a confidence and maturity summoned only by the Gods of experience and time.
Fences have mended, temperaments have softened but Croweology ain’t no easy listening. The musicality is still razor sharp and the “Say Good Night to the Bad Guys” tour is a cumulative anthology of one of the best rock and roll bands around. With two 90-minute sets to satisfy both the acoustic and electric palettes, the band proves that you don’t have to be bad to still be good.
“We are playing at some incredible venues. I am from Nashville so the Ryman [Theatre] is pretty much as good a venue as any for me. We are also closing with six nights at the Fillmore Auditorium. This is the best I’ve been at being in the moment. I’ve been very present on this tour. I’m just taking it all in day to day and really enjoying everything,” Gorman said.
“Not all of the shows have the dual components. We would love it if they did but logistically, there’s a lot that goes into that. Some venues are better suited than others. We enjoy the two-set shows and want to do as many as we can.”
Playing three hours a night and being on the road for month on end can take its toll but when the band is vibing and the crowds are feeling it, the electricity is palpable. That, Gorman said, is all the momentum he needs to keep pushing forward.
“When we get a hold of some of that momentum, we just grab it and hold on for dear life,” he said. It’s easier to get through it when you have an expiration date stamped on your forehead.”
Despite the mayhem that, for years, dragged behind the band like tattered road kill, Gorman said he has no regrets. Time has blurred the edges a bit and he’s okay with that. He’s not looking back, nor is he in a huge rush to move forward. For once, he’s content right where he is and he’s drinking in every drop.
“You go through life and yeah, when you look back and there are a handful [of mistakes] that come to mind but I’m not really one to mess with time. It never works out well in the end and it changes the continuity of your course.”
The Black Crowes will go on indefinite hiatus once the tour wraps in late December. If there are future plans in the works, Gorman either doesn’t know or doesn’t care to discuss it. His goal now is to complete the race and retire to his family for a well-earned break. What happens next is anybody’s guess.
“Once it’s done, I plan to hang out with my family but right now I am doing this. I am a Plan A-type person and right now this is my Plan A. When this ends, I will get a new Plan A. I’m not very good at multi-tasking.”