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CD Reviews:  Chris Robinson: New Earth Mud

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Chris Robinson's first solo album opens harmlessly and predictably, the way a Black Crowes side project might. "Safe in the Arms of Love" introduces the Crowe-less Robinson with a new co-writing and guitar playing collaborator, the role once filled by brother Rich. Here, Paul Stacey's funky, mid-tempo guitar squeals through a groovy melody that never really brings a pulse to boil like "Remedy" or "Twice as Hard" would, but works mildly just the same. "Safe in the Arms of Love" as well as the later Soul Train-like "Ride" are more the exception than the rule, however, on this first unaccompanied outing. Instead, New Earth Mud plays more like a set of Black Crowes ballads, which for a fan is not necessarily a bad thing. 

The lazy but catchy pace of "Silver Car" displays Robinson's one indisputable talent -- his raspy, bourbon-soaked voice. Even when his pen is not as potent ("Took a ride in a Silver Car on a neon day with a question mark"), the lead Crowe manages to wrap his more-than-capable vocals around a beautiful verse. From the cosmic ELO organs that flutter throughout "Kids That Ain't Got None" to the traditional mandolin that accompanies "Barefoot By the Cherry Tree," Robinson incorporates a bevy of more subtle and acoustical instruments. It's clear that his life-long influences (Bob Dylan, Muddy Waters, The Faces) are never far from his own creations. On "Katie Dear," the nuptial ballad to wife Kate Hudson, the new hubby declares, "His life is empty with no love inside." Somehow I don't think it's so difficult being Chris Robinson these days, but he's been around long enough to realize pain sells!

Expecting New Earth Mud to be a breakout smash that drives a creative and career wedge between Robinson and his fellow Crowes would be going too far. Contrary to popular belief, I've never felt that we have heard our last Black Crowes album. More likely, Chris Robinson (and others) needed a vacation from 12 years of sibling rivalry, touring and just being a Black Crowe. So he decided to pack a couple bags (and probably enough pot to kill a small army!), grab his new wife and fly to Paris. Six months on French soil putting music to a handful of old poems hopefully gave Robinson the perspective he needed to fill that empty void of which he speaks. The retail result is far from earth shattering, but I suppose it will suffice in serving the role of therapy. 

~Red Rocker


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