One of the strongest one-two punches of rockn’roll ever delivered came in the first two years of the Nineties, courtesy of the Robinson Brothers from Atlanta GA, Chris & Rich and the Black Crowes. Recorded in the light of the flames as East Los Angeles burned after the Rodney King police beating and first trial in Simi Valley CA, it is the thirtieth anniversary of haymaker #2, The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion, whose pages are filled with song including “Sting Me”,”Remedy”,”Thorn in My Pride”,”Hotel Illness”,”My Morning Song”, and “Sometimes Salvation”. Never one to pull his punches, the colorful quotable Chris Robinson joined me In the Studio along with guitarist/songwriter Rich Robinson of the Black Crowes thirty years ago upon release of Southern Harmony and Musical Companion and we share the uncanny insights.
Preparing this thirtieth anniversary rockumentary interview with Black Crowes co-founders singer Chris Robinson and his younger guitar-playing brother Rich Robinson to mark their second release, The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion, the deja vu was uncanny and not a little bit unsettling. Constantly I had to remind myself that the trends these Atlanta natives were seeing in the mid-1990s, and the predictions they made then, sound eerily like today’s headlines. Peering now into their spyglass in reverse, it is both remarkable in its accuracy but, I must admit, troubling in its sense of creeping inevitability. “Some people make a living digging graves, and some people make a living robbing them,” pronounced Black Crowes lead singer and co-writer Chris Robinson, his way of explaining how, though the actions of certain people may look quite similar, their motives and ultimate goals can be deceiving.
When Black Crowes lead singer Chris Robinson visited me In The Studio in May 1992, it was our second time to talk about the Atlanta-based band he fronted with his guitar-playing younger brother, Rich. The first meeting was midway through the year-long ascent to Top 5 sales by the Black Crowes’ debut, Shake Your Moneymaker , and in the 18 month interim the intrepid group had played a 350-show marathon in support of that impressive initial effort, leaving the elder Robinson’s witty neo-hippy observations now seasoned with a worldliness that certainly belied his tender twenty-five years at the time. The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion‘s songs ” Sting Me”,”Remedy”,”Thorn in My Pride”,”Sometimes Salvation”,”Hotel Illness”, and “My Morning Song” were all recorded in Los Angeles against the backdrop of the first trial of several white L.A. police officers accused of beating African-American motorist Rodney King. When the all-white jury acquitted the white policemen, the visiting Black Crowes got a front row seat to the violent rioting and the bitter taste of what it means to become a target simply for the color of your skin.
“I got to grow up in Atlanta GA twenty minutes from the best bluegrass music in the world AND the best blues. Same music, different neighborhoods is all.”
The Black Crowes called it a career in 2015 (or so we thought), and we were very sad to report the passing of Black Crowes keyboardist Eddie Harsch the following year. But in spite of COVID-19 crashing their thirtieth anniversary tour plans, The Black Crowes were one of the first major tours back out in 2021.– Redbeard