I've been away to handle some family matters, but like the band of today's post now I'm back. The Black Crowes hit the rock n roll mainstream in the early 90's as the second coming of The Faces / Stones / Aerosmith and then spent the rest of the decade destroying that notion with a jam band direction more akin to The Band or Grateful Dead. After breaking up, the Crowes returned a few years ago with the strong yet subdued Warpaint album.
Last year saw the release of this effort Before The Frost...Until The Freeze. Always the group with their hand up first when it comes to reliving the early 70's, it seems someone tipped them off that the Crowes had never recorded an album of new material live on a farm with an audience before. How this escaped the Crowes up to this point I have no idea (didn't Chicago and Jackson Browne pull off similar stunts?) but obviously this neglect could not continue.
The first or "main" album of what is essentially a double album (another 70s hold over concept) is Before The Frost. This album captures the band's live intensity, it's formidible ability to combine blues rock riffage and improv excitement. Winners include the CCR turned Allman Brothers rocker "Been A Long Time", the broken whiskey bottle ballad "Appaloosa" and the near acoustic Zep magic of "What Is Home". It took a few plays for the songs to stick as individual pieces, Before The Frost is well worth the effort and is a fine album for anyone who liked their Amorica disc.
The second album which came as a free download with purchase of the main cd is Until The Freeze. Here the rock element is pulled out in favor of a more Country / Bluegrass flavor. Lots of pickin and fiddlin goes on and as far as that goes, Until The Freeze isn't bad. Kind of a chill album that reminds me a bit of The Byrds Sweethearts Of The Rodeo era.
While a part of me will always long for the ass kickin rock side of The Black Crowes (I even enjoyed By Your Side, their lone return to that sound that tends to get slagged) Before The Frost...Until The Freeze provides what may be the most complete portrait of the band they've become. An Americana jam band with heavy classic rock roots. And that ain't bad.