The Black Crowes: Warpaint

Silver Arrow
Music ••½ Sound •••½

In pop music terms, a span of 7 years ain't what it used to be. Decades ago, if you went on hiatus for that long and attempted to pick up where you left off, you'd simply be an anachronism, safely out of step and time with the latest trends. But these days, with so much musical real estate staked and claimed - with so many genres and stylistic boundaries defined - you can be the Black Crowes and return to doing what you've always done best and make it feel like you've never been gone.

Imagine the Beatles trying to "Hold Your Hand"; in 1969, if you will. Thing is, the Crowes were already a stylistic throwback when they debuted in 1990 with Shake Your Money Maker. And their new CD, Warpaint, finds them sticking to the bluesy end of their Southern Rock renaissance, evoking that early-1970s Faces-to-Stones groove. In doing so, they've added the North Mississippi Allstars' Luther Dickinson on slide guitar for deeper blues and keyboardist Adam MacDougall for stronger ties to the Allman Brothers tradition.

To be sure, "Walk Believer Walk," "Oh Josephine," and "We Who See the Deep" are explosive instrumental runs for the band. However, singer Chris Robinson never invents a memorable melody, instead settling for a languid sneer. It isn't until the sixth track, "Locust Street" - with its Goats Head Soup / It's Only Rock N' Roll balladry in place - that all the elements fall into place.

Teaching these old Crowes new tricks isn't gonna happen. So they'll have to wring a bit more out of the old tricks.