Big Moon Ritual

The Chris Robinson Brotherhood / Chris Robinson

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Big Moon Ritual Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

It's hard not to read the name of Chris Robinson's second post-Black Crowes venture as a jab at his brother Rich: the brothers brawled through two incarnations of the Crowes in the '90s and 2000s, and only now has Chris found his Brotherhood, now that he has once again parted ways with Rich. Of course, the Chris Robinson Brotherhood also strikes up a communal hippie vibe on their 2012 debut Big Moon Ritual, an album they recorded after touring for nearly a year, so it bears all the scars of the road along with a healthy disregard of clock and calendar. It is, as they say, how these things used to be made: bands used to tour forever, then roll themselves into the studio, knock out a session, then head back out on the never-ending road. It also happens to be how the Crowes closed out their career, cutting the exceptional 2009 LP Before the Frost…Until the Freeze live in front of an audience at Levon Helm's upstate New York barn, and Robinson picks up that thread here, channeling that loose live spirit within the studio. Perhaps the Brotherhood is a shade too loose -- "Tulsa Yesterday" opens with its sprawling 12 minutes and no song dips below the seven-minute mark -- but the time passes smoothly as the music ebbs and flows, never diving into a grimy, gritty murk but rolling across a pretty, hazy sunset. Surely, it's steeped in the '70s -- so much so there are analog synthesizers straight out of A Clockwork Orange -- but there isn’t a self-conscious retro-revival here; the Chris Robinson Brotherhood spends their time doing what comes naturally, and the music flows easily, even alluringly, as they jam with no care of when they began or where they will end.

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