When the roadie lights the crown of nag champa incense sticks atop the owl statue’s head, it’s showtime. Within moments, the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, or CRB, will amble to their places onstage and unbottle a potent blend of psychedelic blues-rock-folk into the cosmos. Yeah, they’re that far-out.
CRB is guitarist-songwriter, Chris Robinson, Neal Casal on guitar (he also shares songwriting duties), Adam MacDougall on keys, drummer Tony Leone, and pinning it all down on bass is Jeff Hill. These beards of a feather were assembled in 2011 (with original drummer George Sluppick and bassist Muddy Dutton) by Robinson when his former band, The Black Crowes, scattered, unable to carry on when Robinson and his brother, Rich, could no longer work in harmony. Began as an experiment, Robinson’s original intent was to gig around California — where the band is based — and see where it went.
The result is a project that has caught on like a perfectly rolled joint — burning slow and even and delivering out-of-this world music that feels like velvet on skin. Their music digs deep into the hippie-folk canon of loping jams and mind-bending lyricism, colored and interwoven with Casal’s tasteful, melodic guitar work and MacDougall’s sinuous waves of aural experimentation. Riding herd on this old-new sound is Robinson, who possesses one of the most distinctive voices in rock ’n’ roll. His is a strong voice, bathed in the blues and fired in the forges of rock. He can growl; he can be gentle; he always knows the way.
The band tours like they’re hungry and are no strangers to Telluride. Their first appearance was at the Telluride Blues & Brews Festival, where Robinson and crew made a strong, musical statement that life is about moving on. Since then, they’ve played the Telluride Conference Center and a series of Sheridan Opera House gigs that left the old lady blissed and buzzing. Ride Festival promoter Todd Creel could not help but take note of their unbroken string of sold-out Telluride shows, and so included them on his stellar weekend line-up this year. CRB is scheduled for 3 p.m. on Sunday afternoon.
In addition to bringing its ever-changing set lists to fans around the world, CRB has released a series of acclaimed albums that they continually mine for their live sets. Though far from Top 40 fare, songs like “Rosalee,” “Jump The Turnstiles,” “Roan Country Banjo” and “Vibration and Light” are among beloved highlights in a CRB live show.
It’s also not uncommon for latter-career Crowes songs to make the different-every-show set list. “I Ain’t Hiding” from the 2009 album “Before the Frost … Until the Freeze” makes frequent appearances. And little gets the tail-feathers shaking better than a vigorous dose of “Hard To Handle,” the Otis Redding cover from the 1990 Crowes debut “Shake Your Money Maker.”
CRB will cram a lot of goodness into an hour-long festival set. They’ll go with your Sunday afternoon in the park buzz beautifully.