The Upshot: Black Crowes guitarist revisits and expands his first four solo records, offering a welcome reappraisal of some once-underappreciated tunes.
BY LEE ZIMMERMAN
With the on-gain, off-again status of his birth band, the Black Crowes, Rich Robinson wisely chose to pursue his own intents, well apart from those of Chris Robinson, his brother and Crowes co-founder. It was not only a wise move, but a fortuitous one as well, resulting in a catalog that measures up well to the efforts undertaken by his former ensemble. The re-release of Robinson’s first four solo albums affirms that fact, offering opportunity to peruse his back pages and gain greater appreciation for the work in the process.
Debut outing Paper Sun was less of a leap, given that this rough hewn collection of blustery populist anthems (“Know Me,” “Leave It Alone”) emulates the Crowes to a significant degree. Indeed, Robinson’s willingness to tamper with the template made typecasting that much more difficult. The reissue had to be reconfigured entirely due to the fact that its masters were damaged during Hurricane Sandy.
Its follow-up, Through a Crooked Sun, followed seven years later, and gave Robinson an outlet for his love of all things Allman Brothers while going back to the basics. Still, it left him ample opportunity to stretch out instrumentally as well, often veering remarkable close to fusion-esque terrain. The limited edition The Llama Blues followed that same year, allowing Robinson to focus on his first love, the blues. The four songs it contained were all originals, but they adhered to the template so well, they reflected a vintage authenticity.
Finally, in 2014, The Woodstock Sessions allowed Robinson opportunity to recap his earlier efforts via a pair of electric and acoustic sets performed before an intimate audience. His cover of Bonnie and Delaney classic “Got to Better in a Little While” is not only a fine choice for inclusion, but a means of taking the music full circle and back to its roots. For the record, bonus tracks are included on all the albums with the exception of the EP. Taken in tandem, it makes for a wealth of Robinson music that’s sounds sturdier now than it even did before.
DOWNLOAD: “Know Me,” “Leave It Alone,” “Got to Better in a Little While”