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The Black Crowes, a southern rock and blues exponent, has been M.I.A. for some years now.

The Magpie Salute

Those who grew up listening to American-brand rock and roll exports from the ’90s would know this band from their string of hits that began with their refreshed take on the Otis Redding song “Hard To Handle,” the Rolling Stone-esque “Twice As Hard” “Jealous Again” and that iridescent ballad “She Talks To Angles,” among others.

In the time when alternative rock was the prime style of rock in the ’90s, The Black Crowes stuck to their guns and broke wide open with their second album “The Southern Harmony And Musical Companion.” That one rocked right with tracks as “Sting Me,” “Remedy,” and “Sometimes Salvation” and a few more blues rock burnished gems. To us, that album has the best lineup with brothers Chris (vocals) and Rich Robinson leading, Johnny Colt on bass, Steve Gorman on drums and new recruits Eddie Harsch on keyboards and Marc Ford on lead guitars.

A couple more albums down the road and over the years, a few core members exited. It started with Colt, followed by Ford – who was replaced by Sven Pipien (bass) and Audley Freed and later Luther Dickinson on guitars.

Gorman left in 2005 (with a brief return in 2007) but in 2010, the band announced an indefinite hiatus, punctuated by Chris’ announcement of a new solo project that continues to this day dubbed the Chris Robinson Brotherhood.

Which leads as now to the debut of The Magpie Salute, a band led by the younger Robinson, who has patched things up with Ford (thank God), bringing along Pipien and the late Harsch (who sadly died in November 2016) to form the nucleus of a new band that pretty much lives up to the solid legacy of the Crowes.

The Magpie Salute album art (

The Magpie Salute album art

The group’s eponymous first album, oddly enough, is a live set. Released early June 2017, it’s bannered by “Omission.” The rocking new song certainly has that Robinson-Ford guitar tandem signature with a bit of Zep thrown in.

With an added nice touch from singer John Hogg, who’s got an amazing vocal tone that cuts through the robust layer of sounds that these Magpies make. “Comin’ Home” is a blues rock jam reminiscent of southern rock giants Allman Brothers Band, Mountain and the like. Likewise with the tuneful “What Is Home,” which feature among others, some fine guitar and band interplay, which for these guys, are a given.

Now, although low key compared to his brother as a vocalist, Robinson does a good very good job with the role. At this point, it even seems second nature for him.

For that matter, Ford seems to be in there doing some vocal work too (“Fearless”?). Along with former Crowe band members, Robinson also brought in some musicians who played with him during his own solo stint.

The aptly titled “The Magpie Salute” also has some di riguer jam covers such as “Going Down South,” “War Drums” as well as some Black Crowe-gems starting with the fine “Wiser Time” (from “Amorica”), which seems to have aged quite well. And their cover of the Bob Marley song “Only Time (Will Tell),” which was included in the “Southern Harmony” album.

In all, this new album is a solid effort and quite the trip for any rock and roll fan who grew up with the Black Crowes’ music.

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