When Chris and Rich Robinson made the November 2019 announcement that the Black Crowes were reuniting, it represented a reconciliation between the siblings after the band was blown up in 2015. The plan was to launch a lengthy reunion tour in 2020 commemorating the 30th anniversary of the group's 1990 debut album "Shake Your Money Maker."
Then COVID-19 struck and the touring industry. along with the rest of the world, ground to a halt. The 2020 tour was pushed back a year, and now the Black Crowes are doing more shows this summer celebrating that debut album.
For guitarist Rich Robinson, this unexpected respite turned out to be a mixed blessing, allowing him to get some perspective, while quarantining at home with his family in Nashville.
"For 31 years, I've never not toured, played music with other people, been in the studio or done something to that effect for over a year," he said. "That's been interesting and a little tough because it becomes a part of you as a person just to have that feeling and connection.
"But on the flipside, the positive of it was to be able to spend time unfettered with my children and be able to do that for 15 months without having to leave." He added with a laugh, "Also being able to see them every day and experience all the joys of home schooling while trying to figure out how to use Zoom."
But while it might seem simple for the brothers Robinson to pick up where they left off, reconnecting involved rebuilding a relationship that crumbled to the point where neither had been in touch with each other for several years. It was bad enough that Chris had never met Rich's two youngest children and Rich had been just as disconnected from nephew Ryder and niece Cheyenne.
And while both had gone on to other projects, Chris with the Chris Robinson Brotherhood (CRB) and As The Crowe Flies, and Rich with The Magpie Salute, both were on the same page in terms of mending fences. For the younger Rich Robinson, it was even more apparent given the direction Magpie Salute was headed.
"The financial and a lot of the creative burdens [in Magpie Salute] were on my shoulders and it was reaching a point where it was untenable," he admitted. "I remember saying to a mutual friend, 'I wrote these songs and I really miss Chris.' It wasn't a pitch or anything—just a passing comment. Our friend said that Chris said the same thing to him the other day."
With the pandemic-enforced downtime, the Robinsons were able to reconvene with George Drakoulias, who produced the band's first couple of albums. The trio dove into the vaults and emerged with a 30th anniversary, multi-format "Shake Your Money Maker" reissue. It includes three unreleased studio tracks (including the first single "Charming Mess"), B-sides, demos and a 14-song unreleased live recording of a 1990 two-night Atlanta homecoming stand after the album had gone platinum.
The Crowes have returned to the road having released an EP, "1972," with covers of songs released 50 years ago by the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, T. Rex, Rod Stewart, Little Feat and the Temptations. The band's touring lineup is rounded out by guitarist Isaiah Mitchell, keyboardist Joel Robinow, Brandi Carlile drummer Brian Griffin and background singers Mackenzie Adams and Leslie Grant.
The one former band member returning to the fold is Sven Pipien, who was the bassist from 1997 until the band splintered in 2015. Founding member/drummer Steve Gorman, who penned 2019's memoir "Hard To Handle: The Life and Death of the Black Crowes: A Memoir," was not asked back, and when asked about the reunion tour during a 2019 "Variety" interview, opined, "I don't begrudge anybody that goes to see it, but it's sad...it's always gonna be sad." For Rich Robinson, who said he hadn't read Gorman's book, getting a fresh start with his older sibling is the key.
"We want to focus and do it right for ourselves as human beings. For ourselves as brothers. For ourselves as writing and creative partners as well as the other reasons."
The Black Crowes Present:
Shake Your Money Maker
Thu., July 21. Doors 5pm; Show 6:30pm
Hayden Homes Amphitheater
344 SW Shevlin Hixon Dr., Bend