The Black Crowes – Happiness Bastards (Silver Arrow)

The Black Crowes are back! Brothers Chris and Rich Robinson have buried the hatchet, put the pedal to the metal, and come up with their best album in years.

Its been 15 years since The Black Crowes released an album of original material with the brothers Robinson finally reuniting in 2019 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Shake Your Money Maker.

The tour went well…so guitar-slinger Rich tentatively offered a few new songs to vocalist Chris. And surprise! Here we are with ten new tracks that sound as fresh and vital as a couple of 50-somethings can sound.

Recorded in Nashville under the supervision of producer Jay Joyce (Orville Peck, Tim Finn, Halestorm) and allegedly recorded live in the studio with few, if any overdubs, this record rocks from beginning to end.

Opening track, Bedside Manners gets things started in fine style with the guitar riff that with grab you by the short and curlies. Chris Robinson’s vocal carries plenty of swagger as a rollicking piano seals the deal.

Other than the Robinson brothers, its unclear who else is playing…possibly drummer Cully Symington and bassist Sven Pipien…whoever it is, they sound like a proper band.

Second track, Rats and Clowns, proves that this is very much a guitar record in that classic 70s, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet Southern style.

Cross Your Fingers starts with acoustic picking and a touch of pedal steel but then breaks into a crunchy riff-rocker. Waiting And Waiting features some gospel-style female backing vocals and up and coming Nashville star Lainey Wilson lends her lungs to Wilted Rose, giving it her best Merry Clayton/Gimme Shelter effort.

Dirty Cold Sun is funky and fun while Bleed It Dry contains Chris’ best vocal performance.

Only Flesh Wound feels a bit unnecessary, ”I guess its the price I pay”, warbles Chris before brother Rich sets things straight with a killer guitar riff on Follow The Man.

And what better way to wrap this up with a ballad about brotherly love and a nice bit of harmonica? That’s what we get on Kindred Friend.

I must admit I came to this record with low expectations as these guys have seemed to be sleepwalking through most of their late-period catalogue, but I gotta say Happiness Bastards finds The Black Crowes flying high once more.

Marty Duda

The Black Crowes Happiness Bastards is released Friday, March 15th.

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