Circle Sound Records
Black Crowes guitarist Rich Robinson’s sophomore solo effort, Through a Crooked Sun, opens up with a lazy vibe, riding on the psychedelic-tinged swagger of “Lost and Found.” Midway through the disc, however, brighter melodies and tones emerge as the instrumentation gets punchier. Despite this slow, subtle shift, the album functions as a congruous set of songs anchored by one person.
The momentum starts to build with “I Don’t Hear the Sound of You,” an acoustic strummer with a surprisingly jazzy instrumental section. Robinson handles all the guitar and bass work, and even dabbles in organ on a few tracks, most notably on the near-seven-minute “Follow You Forever.” Throughout the album, Robinson strategically employs his blues chops, though it appears the folk-inspired Robinson wanted a stripped-down feel for Crooked Sun, as the chords and percussion could easily branch off into epic rock jams. Robinson’s masterful playing and ability to find the right outlets give the song skeletons both supple flesh and deep soul.
Other memorable moments include “Hey Fear,” for its lingering melody (the album certainly isn't lacking in good melodies, but this one really stays in the head). The guitar firepower increases on “Bye Bye Baby,” with Warren Haynes contributing slinky slide licks while Larry Campbell contributes ethereal pedal-steel work.
On “Station Man,” Robinson dishes out crunchy chords and arpeggios dotted with vocal calls and responses, but still keeps things from veering too far from the point. The lyrics are fresh and thoughtful—poetic even—but not drenched in sadness.
In general, the quieter Robinson brother's voice is pleasant and soft-spoken—more singer/songwriter-like than what you'd expect from, say, his work with the Crowes. While his solo debut, 2004's Paper, was a heavier, more riff-oriented experiment, Crooked Sun benefits from calculated subtleness that's wholly different from the side he shows with the Crowes—even though he's such a huge part of that band's sound.
Despite being known primarily as a veteran guitarist, Robinson admirably pulls off a triple-threat of feeling in epic riffs, great singing, and interesting lyrics. As a result, the songs stand on their own, rather than coming across as songs written as a showcase for a guitar player.Must-Hear Tracks:“Bye Bye Baby” and “Fire Around”