In 2011, after more than two decades of gigging and recording, ex-Black Crow Chris Robinson set off to give birth to a fresh rock mythology, resulting in the Chris Robinson Brotherhood and the debut studio album ‘Big Moon Ritual’.

The initial experiment has since turned into a serious project for Robinson (lead guitar / vox), Adam MacDougall (keys, vocals), George Sluppick (drums) and Mark Dutton (bass vocals). Psychedelic hued tunes are fused with soulful rock and shuffling boogie sounds – offering a unique blend that’s quite yesterday albeit with a contemporary twang to it. This is not the hard-hittin’ blues rock of Robinson’s former band The Black Crowes, although it still rings through in a mellowed-out kind of way. Instead, the cosmic looking album sleeve (somewhat reminiscent of YES album covers) immediately hints at more spaced-out fare.

Indeed, opener ‘Tulsa Yesterday’ starts with an intro that could have been taken from the movie Forbidden Planet, gradually drifting into an easy-going piece that’s dippy-trippy and yet rhythmic all the same, finally culminating into an ecstatic finale that suggests the use of sitar (though its probably a synthesizer).

‘Rosalee’ probably comes closest to the original Black Crowes sound, a lengthy and uplifting number with excellent backing chorus and great to dance to. “The air gets thinner and are we getting high?” asks Robinson in a way that has a double meaning to it. Yes, listening to the track will get you high – unless you don’t have any rhythm in your bod whatsoever!

Next track ‘Star Or Stone’ is one of those rock-solid arrangements that grow on you every time you listen to it. Ever so slightly on the Americana roots-rock side and with an inspired country-tinge to it, this is amongst my faves here. Lovely guitar solos, too!

While the smooth-flowing ‘Tomorrow Blues’ bears all the easiness of 70’s Southern blues-rock (more chilled-out than rocking, actually), ‘Reflections On A Broken Mirror’ is the one I fell in love with instantly. Irresistible harmonies, a truly catchy melody that oozes feeling from every note, great solo work and fab backing vocals – what a beauty!

‘Beware, Oh Take Care’ and ‘One Hundred Days Of Rain’ are both well-crafted lyrically (this, of course, also goes for the other songs on the album) and, once again, offer a range of killer harmonies as well as layer upon layer of instrumental craftsmanship that do the former Crow justice.

‘Big Moon Ritual’ is Chris Robinson’s most mature work yet, and so it should be – even the most die-hard rockers mellow out once in a big moon and occasionally dabble in more unexpected sounds. California dreamin’? Damn right!

Says Robinson:
We really feel these records set the stage for another full year, where we’ll seehow far we can go with it. We already feel successful because we have the freedom to do what we want. And it’s always cosmic. The times demand it.
Let’s hope the fans demand it too, in ever increasing numbers!