The Black Crowes

By Your Side

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Between Shake Your Money Maker and Three Snakes and One Charm, the Black Crowes evolved from a muscular, Stonesy hard rock outfit to full-fledged modern-day Southern rockers, drawing from a wealth of blues, country, folk, and rock styles to create a sprawling, fluid sound that was simultaneously traditional and distinctive. The problem was, their loose-limbed grooves tended to connect better in concert than on record, especially since they were sacrificing songs for the sake of sound, which in turn was decreasing their audience. Aware of the situation, the Crowes went back to their roots with By Your Side. Armed with a string of concise, energetic rockers, the Crowes hit harder than they had since their debut, yet they retain the sonic detail that reared its head on Amorica, adding pianos, choirs, and scores of other flourishes throughout the record. It's a back-to-basics set performed with all of the knowledge they have gained over the years, and the result is a thoroughly enjoyable record, their most satisfying and accessible effort since The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion. Not that it's necessarily in that league -- it lacks the parade of great songs that elevate that album above all their others -- but it does find the Crowes in lean fighting form for the first time in years, proving that they're possibly the best straight-ahead rock & roll band of the '90s.

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