The Black Crowes Celebrate Their Debut Album at Red Butte Garden

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, and now The Black Crowes are doing more shows this summer celebrating that debut album. The Shake Your Money Maker tour will come to Red Butte Garden on Aug. 17 with openers The Texas Gentlemen.

For guitarist Rich Robinson, this unexpected respite turned out to be a mixed blessing, allowing him to get some perspective while quarantined 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 flip side, 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 homeschooling 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 went on to other projects, Chris with the Chris Robinson Brotherhood (CRB) and As The Crow Flies, and Rich with The Magpie Salute, both were on the same page in terms of mending fences. For the younger 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 don’t feel like we were growing as fast as we would have liked.” As Rich wrote new songs, he thought about reconnecting with his brother. “I always wrote for Chris,” he said. “It had been seven years since I’d talked to him and I just missed my writing partner. We brought these two [perspectives] to the table when we wrote these songs together. 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. We were kind of on a similar page.”

With the pandemic-enforced downtime, the Robinsons were able to reconvene with George Drakoulias. Drakoulias discovered the band, produced the band’s first couple of albums and served as a mentor during the band’s formative years when the struggling musicians didn’t have a manager, lawyer or record deal. The trio dove into the vaults and emerged with a 30th anniversary, multi-format reissue of Shake Your Money Maker. It includes three unreleased studio tracks (including the first single “Charming Mess”), B-sides, demos and a 14-song unreleased live recording from a 1990 performance in Atlanta. While much of that time was a blur for Rich, he was pleasantly surprised at what was found on the cassette demos Drakoulias had saved and pulled out for this project.  

“I was 19 at the time, and I think we were so excited just to be able to make an album,” he recalled. “We never thought about the future or where it was going. We just knew we were making a record in a studio with gear.” After their debut’s whirlwind success, the band didn’t look back and quickly began writing and performing new music. “We never took stock in what [Shake Your Money Maker] meant to us and what a great record it is. I haven’t listened to that record in literally decades. Listening to the old stuff is just not my thing.” This reissue and anniversary tour gave Rich the rare opportunity to revisit a formative period in his life and career. “Everyone involved did a stellar job and I’m really happy with it.”

The Crowes have returned to the road this summer after releasing the 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 Lesley Grant. 

The one former band member returning to the fold is Sven Pipien, who was the bassist from 1997 until the Black Crowes splintered in 2015. Founding member/drummer Steve Gorman, who penned 2019’s memoir Hard To Handle: The Life and Death of the Black Crowes, was not asked back. When asked about the reunion tour during a 2019 Variety interview, he said, “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 focus.

“Steve was one of the incredibly negative and manipulative forces in the band that [we] really didn’t want to deal with,” he said. “In order to get back, we really had to do this very specific purge where we focus on the two of us and let this be something that will be positive…We want to focus and do it right for ourselves as human beings. For ourselves as brothers. For ourselves as writing and creative partners.”

  • Who: The Black Crowes with openers The Texas Gentlemen
  • What: Shake Your Money Maker, played in its entirety, along with other hit songs
  • Where: Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre
  • When: Aug. 17, 2022
  • Tickets and info: redbuttegarden.org

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Dave Gil de Rubio
Dave Gil de Rubiohttp://saltlakemagazine.com
In addition to being editor of Massapequa Observer and Hicksville News in New York, Dave Gil de Rubio is a regular contributor to Long Island Weekly, specializing in music and sports features. He has won several awards for writing from the Press Club of Long Island (PCLI).

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