Revitalized by their 2008 reunion, the Black Crowes
decided to take a genuine risk, recording a double-album's worth of new material in front of a live audience at Levon Helm
's barn in upstate New York...and then release the second half, Until the Freeze
, as a free download-only. To a certain extent, such formal experiments are where the Crowes
can really stretch, as they're so devoted to rock & roll roots from Southern England to South Georgia, they can't add new wrinkles to old traditions. But that's not exactly right: they're willing to stretch until at least the late '70s, offering their spin on a Rolling Stones
' disco on the album's first single, "I Ain't Hiding." As true as that may be, it's too snide and easy, and does a disservice to what the Crowes
pull off with aplomb on this rather remarkable record, a record that has all the easy interplay of a road-tested band but none of the weariness. The Crowes
play with muscle and grace, easing into the rustic ramble of "Appaloosa" or getting dirt underneath their fingernails on the stupendous opener "Good Morning Captain," a song that sets the keynote for the rest of the record both in its sturdy construction and enthusiastically ragged performance. More than anything, it's the kineticism that captivates, how the band deepens their already-strong songs with muscle and blood, sounding alive in a way that they never quite have in the studio. No longer young upstarts, they wear their years proudly on this terrific album, sounding like the veteran roadhounds they've always aspired to be.