MUSIC PREVIEW: Black Crowes take flight with Tedeschi Trucks Band (2024)

Chad Berndtson| The Patriot Ledger

‘I think the Black Crowes start to become something else and we’re not sort of tied to it at the post and it’s something that’s a little more free and a little more erudite and we can kind of do it when we feel like it.”

So says Chris Robinson, he of one of the most recognizably soulful howls in rock history and co-founder of the still-dynamite, often-tempestuous, once-again-reunited Black Crowes.

It’s been 23 years and a lot of water under the bridge since they busted out behind 1990’s “Shake Your Money Maker” – a volatile Southern blues-rock band led by the oft-squabbling Robinson Brothers, Chris and Rich, steeped in everything from the Rolling Stones and Otis Redding to Gram Parsons, Traffic and The Band.

For those counting, this is their second reunion, following two hiatuses (2001-2005, 2010-2013) and a handful of lineup changes throughout. These days, both Robinsons are doing their most creative new work in solo bands. And yet, the Crowes are once again back where they should be: in flight.

“I kind of see the future of the Black Crowes as kind of being, we do it when we feel like doing it,” Chris Robinson told a group of music reporters in a mid-June conference call. “And it’s something that I don’t think [works] in your youth and especially in the ‘90s when you’re selling millions of records and you’re responsible for all this income and intrigue to these labels and corporations and stuff. On some levels, you become a slave to that kind of system or routine.

“Our perception is much different [now]. The business is much different. And success is much different in terms of when you look around and see what it means.”

After playing U.S. and European clubs and theaters as part of a first wave of return shows in April and May, the Crowes this summer are part of a massive tour that includes two groups with strong South Shore ties. One is the Tedeschi Trucks Band, the 11-piece R&B/soul juggernaut and principal outlet of fiery singer/guitarist and Norwell native Susan Tedeschi and her slide guitar wizard husband Derek Trucks.

The other is the London Souls, an up-and-coming soul-blues trio whose drummer, Chris St. Hilaire, hails from Sharon.

That power-packed lineup will play two shows at Boston’s Bank of America Pavilion over the next two weeks, July 30 and August 6. And while no one’s saying for certain, cross-pollination between their groups is almost a given.

“We haven’t discussed but I would hope so,” Robinson said. “Ideally this is a music-oriented event, you know, as opposed to other things. I think with us knowing a lot of the people in Susan and Derek’s group and (they) knowing everyone in my group it’s kind of hard to keep everybody off the stage if there’s a jam.”

Tedeschi, who also spoke to reporters alongside Robinson, remembers the initial conversations about a joint tour as an idea that just made sense. (See our recent interview with Susan Tedeschi.)

“I remember Derek and my manager and I sitting around thinking about, if you could tour with somebody who is going to be able to play in some of these bigger venues. And if you want to play with a bigger-style artist, who would you want to play with?” Tedeschi said. “Well, Derek has very slim pickings on that. He doesn’t really want to play with anybody but he was really excited about trying to play with the Black Crowes and, with Chris, and he really respects them and loves them and thought it would be a good mix with the two bands.”

Robinson added: “Derek, you know, where his mantle is placed, so are the Black Crowes. And again, like, when the idea comes up, it’s a no-brainer, you know, like, let’s go out with one of the deepest, funkiest, soulful bands out there. I love it for this time and where we just are in music, and what it represents to be on something that is the earthiest tour with its head in the most celestial places. That’s always going to be interesting for us.”

The curveball in this latest reboot of the Black Crowes is 32-year-old Jackie Greene, who’s taken over lead guitar duties. Greene, a richly talented Northern California folk-blues singer-songwriter with a hard rock streak, was touted as a “new Dylan” after debuting more than a decade ago.

In recent years, however, he’s also endeared himself to jamband and summer festival audiences thanks to an association with the surviving members of the Grateful Dead, and he’s been playing with several members of the Crowes for years.

He and Robinson met through working with Dead bassist Phil Lesh’s “Friends” groups, which have also included Crowes keyboardist Adam MacDougall. Greene and Robinson also played with another Dead alumnus, Bob Weir, as part of a three-man acoustic setup in 2012. On top of that, Greene plays in an occasional side project with Crowes drummer Steve Gorman called Trigger Hippy, which includes singer Joan Osborne.

As a lead guitarist in the band, Greene is an acquired taste – more sinewy and even-keeled a player than previous-era Crowes flamethrowers like Marc Ford and Luther Dickinson. Robinson, however, is convinced that as Greene grows into the role and takes more chances, he’ll not only check all the boxes fans require in their Black Crowes lead guitar experience, but also inject plenty of himself to keep the band fresh. Greene’s versatility also adds other, unexpected ingredients, from backing vocals to mandolin and banjo.

“Most people know him as a singer/songwriter and like this multi-instrumentalist,” Robinson said. “But after hanging out with Jackie and playing with him and listening to the records he’s into and what his musical interests are I’m like, oh my god, this kid wants to play lead guitar in a blues-based rock ’n’ roll band. There’s a real guitar hero in there. And it was a perfect avenue for him. I think part of Jackie’s, not just his musicianship but his presence, has really been important to the vibes that the Black Crowes have going on right now. It’s very laid back, it’s very focused, it’s very easy going for us.”

Added Robinson with a laugh: “He’s definitely our trophy wife.”

Some fans have groused that the Crowes’ current setlists aren’t much varied – partially to help Greene master the catalog. But Robinson doesn’t sound convinced the band needs a giant repertoire right now.

“We’ve been playing a lot of songs but we’ve been playing a lot of songs that we just feel the presentation’s powerful. And with Jackie joining the band and everything I mean, I think that was kind of our focus as opposed to meandering around and trying to find something,” he said. “ [We’ve found] something concrete and something that’s very rock ’n’ roll based and very powerful in the presentation.”

How long this current Black Crowes reunion will last isn’t as clear. To Robinson, it makes more sense not to over think things – he plans to return to his much-improved Chris Robinson Brotherhood as soon as the Crowes tour wraps up.

“The only real part of the enigma is we don’t have any plans past December,” Robinson said. “It’s just typical Black Crowes world. So we won’t be on the road next year or anything. But that hopefully will open a window for us during a busy [Chris Robinson Brotherhood] schedule to hopefully get into some new music. I know Rich and I have discussed and so, yes, that would ultimately be the goal.”

THE BLACK CROWES, TEDESCHI TRUCKS BAND and the LONDON SOULS At Bank of America Pavilion, 290 Northern Ave., Boston, 6 p.m., Tuesday, July 30 and Tuesday, Aug. 6. $34.50-$74.50;

MUSIC PREVIEW: Black Crowes take flight with Tedeschi Trucks Band (2024)
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