Brotherly Bonds Sometimes Fray at the Edges

On the second LP from former Black Crowes guitarist Rich Robinson’s band Magpie Salute

Magpie Salute

One would think that the brotherly bond would always be enough to keep a band intact. After all, when kin and creativity are involved, how can anything go wrong? Look to the Allman Brothers, the Beach Boys, AC/DC, the Avett Brothers, the Bacon Brothers and any number of other ensembles bound by blood as clear and obvious examples.

Still, for all those successful sibling combs, there are other famous outfits that didn’t fare nearly so well. The onstage fisticuffs between the Kinks’ mainstays, Ray and Dave Davies, were legendary, and while rumors are rife about a reunion, there’s still no word on whether it will really take place. (Ray did join Dave onstage at a show a few months back, but it was a cursory event at best, lasting only a single song.) The Everly Brothers are arguably the most famous sibling combination, but even their ‘50s fame couldn’t prevent the pair from splitting up after Phil smashed his guitar onstage and then walked off during a 1973 concert at Knotts Berry Farm, leaving Don to finish the show. They went their own ways for an entire decade before reuniting  in the early ‘80s.

Then there’s the most duelling twosome of all, Chris and Rich Robinson. When the two shared the helm of the Black Crowes, the band became superstars, one of the most successful, mega-selling outfits of the ‘90s and early 2000s. Though they occasionally reunited, there’s enough ill will between them now to ensure that each mangoes his own way with an individual ensemble in towe, never to consider a Crowes reunion again.

That said, Rich Robinson’s current project, Magpie Salute, still bears a distant Croews connection. Two former bandmates — guitarist Marc Ford and bassist Sven Pipien — play essential roles in the band. Likewise, those paying particularly close attention might take note of the fact that a magpie is considered a cousin to the crow. Coincidence? We think not.

A follow-up to Magpie Salute’s eponymous live debut, High Water I can hardly be considered a carbon copy of the Crowes’ archival template. Yet at the same time, the diverse sounds nod to vintage precepts, and added to their assertive rock and roll rallying cry, certain similarities are there in both noise and nuance.

“None of us are denying that we came from the Crowes camp,” Rich Robinson told this writer as part of an article published in Goldmine magazine. “All of us, directly or indirectly, came from that element. Marc, Svien and I all have that affiliation. The Black Crowes were a big part of our lives and either a big reason, or a small reason, for us being together.

For his part, Chris Robinson also acknowledges the Black Crowes impact on his career, but insists that his band, the Chris Robinson Brotherhood has, after a decade of making their own music, moved beyond any Black Crowes association. “I’ll never shed the shadow of the Black Crowes completely,” Robinson says, but that doesn’t mean he’s not trying.

“One thing I did years ago, which still ticks off those on the Black Crowes gravy train, is that I shut down the food kitchen and formed the CRB,” Chris told The Maryville Daily Times not long ago. “I spent a lot of years in the system making a lot of money for other people. But there are a lot more interesting things in the way of emotional connections you make when you travel as an artist. Some people had a problem with that, but that’s why they’re not on my tour bus.

The thing gets bigger and the music gets better, and so now it’s more in tune to what I thought my life was going to be about as a musician. That’s how it turned out…the lucky, amazing turn of fortune that I had when I was in the Black Crowes.”

It seems then that those brotherly connections, no matter how taut or tenuous, can never be shorn completely.That’s one reason to suggest that no matter how high this magpie flies in the future, Black Crowes will still tail them close behind.

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Lee Zimmerman

Lee Zimmerman is a writer and columnist based in beautiful Maryville Tennessee. Over the past 20 years, his work has appeared in dozens of leading music publications. He is also the author of Americana Music: Voice, Visionaries, and Pioneers of an Honest Sound, which will be published by Texas A&M University Press early next year.

3 thoughts on “Brotherly Bonds Sometimes Fray at the Edges

  • August 17, 2018 at 4:54 pm
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    I would add Liam and Noel Gallagher of Oasis into this heady stew.

    Reply
    • August 19, 2018 at 8:42 pm
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      Absolutely. But based on their latest solo albums, I have to say Liam is arguably the stronger pop songwriter. As You Were was one of the most underrated albums of 2017.

      Reply
      • August 19, 2018 at 8:43 pm
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        Also, I’m in the rare, rare minority who strongly believes Be Here Now is the BEST Oasis LP.

        Reply

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