If You Feel Like A Riot: The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion at 30

The Black Crowes’ sophomore masterpiece furthered a traditional rock ‘n’ roll tapestry

The Black Crowes The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion, Def American Records 1992

It was hardly a coincidence that the Black Crowes opted to title their sophomore album The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion.

The name was taken from a hymnal compiled in 1835, one that advanced the South’s musical legacy and instilled those sounds in the whole of the American songbook. The follow-up to the band’s much heralded debut, Shake Your Money Maker — which itself referenced a classic blues song by Elmore James —  Southern Harmony and Musical Companion affirmed the fact that brothers Chris and Rich Robinson were, in fact, staunch traditionalists whose reverence for their predecessors was absolutely undeniable.

 

VIDEO: The Black Crowes “Remedy”

To be sure, their influences were more clearly synched to an earlier era of classic rock ‘n’ roll, specifically that of the British variety. The similarities to the Stones and the Faces were undeniable in their early efforts, but at the same time it ought to be remembered that those aforementioned outfits gathered their initial inspiration from a soulful Southern sound as well. 

Nevertheless, given the sandpapery vocals, the roughshod revelry and a decidedly insurgent attitude, it was clear the Black Crowes were sharing lessons learned from their forebears.

In a sense, the Crowes were merely returning the music to its roots. And given the fact that they hailed from Atlanta, they could legitimately claim a birthright that made them the rightful heirs to that original Southern sound. Whatever the circumstance, the scenario served them well, not only spawning a then-unprecedented four singles that hit the height of the rock charts — “Remedy,” “Thorn in My Pride,” “Sting Me,” and “Hotel Illness” — but also, in turn, bringing the album to the top spot on the album charts. 

Southern Harmony back cover (Image: American Recordings)

Despite the passage of 30 years since the album was originally released, in May 1992, those particular tracks still remain essential components within the Crowes’ catalog. “Remedy” is an unrepentant rocker that emphasizes the edgy intents that became the band’s stock in trade. “Sting Me” takes a ragtag approach as well, all raucous guitar riffs over a typically sturdy rhythm. “Thorn In My Pride” allows for some rare respite, while “Hotel Illness” reestablishes the grit and groove that propels the album forward. The rest of the set follows suit, an uncompromising set of songs that affirm the fact that the group were well on their way to establishing themselves as the new champions of what was once considered a legacy formula pertaining to pure rock and roll. 

 

VIDEO: The Black Crowes “Sometimes Salvation”

Their mantra may well have been established with opening line of “Sting Me”:

“If you feel like a riot, then don’t deny it

Put your good foot forward

No need for heroics, I just want you to show it

Now’s your time to shine…”

In this case, the Crowes proved the point. Clearly, they were on an upward ascent from which there would be no need to ever look down.

 

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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.

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