Chris Robinson

New Earth Mud

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Perhaps it's appropriate that Chris Robinson's solo debut is a dead ringer for a 1973 solo debut from a hard rock frontman who's now out of the band and married, getting in touch with nature, and letting himself run wild with a new backing band, still sounding like himself but finding new variations in his sound. Since the Black Crowes followed the trajectory of a classic rock band in their career, Robinson should do the same for his own career, and that's one of the charms of New Earth Mud -- it's an old-fashioned record, feeling as if it was nearly 30 years old, even when it's informed by relatively recent funk, rock, and jam bands. Old-fashioned also means that it has some old-fashioned flaws, too: long-winded instrumental interludes, a dippy ode to his new wife, rambling sequencing among them. These only enhance the album's authenticity, giving the album's strengths -- Robinson's continued growth as a vocalist, the band's organic interplay, the burnished, sun-baked vibe conveyed expertly by the cover art -- context. Perhaps Robinson's songwriting could have been a little sharper, but songwriting is secondary to the feel, the sense that this is a singer happily stretching out and seeing what he can do without his band and with a new love. Not earth-shaking, perhaps, but warmly intimate and winning all the same.

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