Anytime a band with a history of infighting and rotating membership as well-documented as that of the Black Crowes goes on “indefinite hiatus,” there is always the fear that means “never coming back.” Fortunately for fans of the Crowes, the second major hiatus of their career, launched at the conclusion of their fall 2010 tour, is coming to a close. The Black Crowes are kicking off the first leg of their “Lay Down With Number 13” tour on Monday, March 25, 2013.
Following a few more UK dates, the Crowes will land in Port Chester, NY for an April 2 show and then wind their way down the East Coast and across the South, concluding this run of 25 concerts on May 4 in New Orleans, LA. The Black Crowes also plan to release vinyl and digital versions of a new live album, “Wiser For The Time,” on March 19. The album will feature 26 songs, including 15 acoustic, from shows performed in New York during their fall 2010 tour.
In addition to lead vocalist Chris Robinson, guitarist Rich Robinson, drummer Steve Gorman, bassist Sven Pipien and keyboardist Adam Macdougall, the 2013 version of the Black Crowes will also include guitarist/vocalist Jackie Greene, who has previously worked with Chris Robinson and played on solo tours earlier this fall with Grateful Dead/Furthur vets Bob Weir and Phil Lesh.
This hiatus will prove shorter than the Crowes’ previous hiatus, which lasted from November 2001 to May 2005. The initial tour following that break showed the Crowes a bit rusty and prone to meandering, aimless jamming, but they soon clicked and produced some of their finest live and studio work from 2006-2010, with the final tour of that period, featuring North Mississippi Allstars virtuoso Luther Dickinson, among the best of their career.
Especially considering how busy frontman Chris Robinson has been with his Chris Robinson Brotherhood project, releasing two albums and extensively touring during 2012, there were no clear signs the Crowes would return so soon, if at all. The band has evolved extensively since coming out of nowhere as a good-time pub rocking band in the vein of The Faces and The Rolling Stones in the early 1990s (they were actually lumped in with heavy metal acts at the very start of their career), morphing into Allman Brothers-style Southern rock and then becoming more experimental and psychedelic as time went on.
Their later work saw more of a return to their down-home roots, although it remains to be seen whether the spacey direction taken by the Chris Robinson Brotherhood represents a side track or something the vocalist/main songwriter intends to bring back with him to the Crowes. Regardless, the Crowes rarely disappoint (their August 30, 1992 Boston date of their legendary “High as the Moon” tour may rank as the single best concert this writer has ever seen) and always find a way to take traditional roots music and make something new and exciting from it.