Lazy critics who probably haven't checked in since the 1990 debut Shake Your Moneymaker, tend label the Black Crowes as mere Faces retreads. And while the Crowes do indeed have a penchant for dabbling in the sounds of both the late-Sixties and Seventies, this is simply a case of a group whose strengths lay in the sounds of American roots music. With their eighth studio album, the Black Crowes are far from being Luddites, following up last year's stellar comeback album Warpaint with a uniquely released new project. Recorded before a live audience at Levon Helm's barn in upstate New York, the band cut two albums worth of material putting out Before the Frost... the conventional way and then making the second half, ...Until the Freeze, available as a free download only.
The resulting songs envelop everything from gorgeous Laurel Canyon-flavored country rock ("Appaloosa") to Little Feat-like shuffles spiked with slide guitar and rollicking piano ("And the Band Played On"), with a slice of funky disco ("I Ain't Hiding") that wouldn't sound out of place in between the Rolling Stone's "Miss You" and the Grateful Dead's "Shakedown Street." ...Until the Freeze makes for perfect complement, with Chris and Rich Robinson leading their crew down a significantly twangier path, unplugging and indulging a love of country and mountain music. Aided by Dylan sideman Larry Campbell and his mastery of banjo, fiddle, and pedal steel, the Crowes come up with gems like the wistful ballad "Greenhorn" and a cover of the Manassas gem "So Many Times" sautéed in harmonies. With this recent foray into the studio, the Black Crowes are operating in a creatively rich and very much organic zone even if detractors fail to realize it. (Silver Arrow)