By James Calemine
The Lost Crowes comprises two Black Crowes recording sessions that remained buried a decade before their release. The first disc, Tall—an old jazz term for getting high—recorded in 1994, stands as an interesting glimpse into what became the Crowes third CD, Amorica. At this point, Chris Robinson relocated from Atlanta (where the first two Crowes albums were recorded) to Los Angeles and persuaded the band to follow.
The songs “A Conspiracy”, “Cursed Diamond”, “P. 25 London”, “Nonfiction”, “Wiser Time”, “High Head Blues” and “Descending” emerged on their third CD, Amorica. The song “Lowdown” was altered and renamed on Amorica as “Ballad In Urgency”. For “Evil Eye” the band recorded a new chorus and released the tune on the 1996 Atlanta-based CD, Three Snakes and One Charm.
During the recording of Tall, the Crowes were following two very successful albums—Shake Your Money Maker and The Southern Harmony & Musical Companion–and pressure descended on the group. Songs like “Dirty Hair Halo”, “Feathers”, “Tied Up & Swallowed”, “Sunday Buttermilk Waltz”, “Tornado”, “Song Of the Flesh” and “Thunderstorm 6:54” from this session remained formidable songs in the Crowes live repertory. Once Chris and Rich Robinson realized these sessions were hampered by internal friction, they scrapped Tall and began recording the group’s furious Amorica.
The second CD, Band, captures the Crowes at their peak of musicianship. These songs were recorded in May of 1997 in Atlanta before the band headlined the Furthur Festival, which marked the end of the era for the Crowes when bassist Johnny Colt and guitarist Marc Ford departed the group.
The ten songs on Band find the Crowes returning to strong-crafted songwriting and a straightaway rock and roll aesthetic, which inflected country, R&B and soul overtones. The opener, “Paint An Eight”, a gritty tune on the dangers of consecutive sleepless nights, find the Crowes in a streamlined zone few rock and roll bands ever attain.
Steve Gorman’s steady and true drumming syncopated by Johnny Colt’s solid bass constitutes a strong rhythm section that operated telepathically. Eddie Harsch adds cascades of color and remarkable touches on the keyboards. Rich Robinson and Marc Ford’s chemistry ran strong at this point, like some mystical right and left hand which called to mind Allman/Clapton or Richards/Wood/Taylor sidewinding six-string sounds. Chris Robinson’s lyrics painted an interesting narrative between temptation and redemption during the mercurial fever surrounding the group.
Most of the compositions like “Another Roadside Tragedy” became staples of the Crowes’ live performances, especially during the Crowes’ reunion shows of 2005-2006. “If It Ever Stops Raining” was changed a bit and renamed as the title track on the Crowes’ 1998 release, By Your Side.
“Wyoming & Me” ranks as one of the Crowes’ finest tunes—as does “Predictable” and “Peace Anyway”. These songs find the Crowes in a whirlwind of relaxed spontaneity, a sentiment which gave the The Southern Harmony & Musical Companion its eternal grace.
The Lost Crowes serves as a timeless musical testimony during a golden era of one of America’s greatest rock and roll bands.
Read my interviews with Chris Robinson, Rich Robinson and Marc Ford in Insured Beyond The Grave Vol. 2.