Artist: The Chris Robinson Brotherhood
Album: Anyway You Love, We Know How You Feel
Label: Megaforce/ Silver Arrow
Release Date: 07/29/2016
It’s not easy to get your bearings with this record, but that’s the way the band wanted it – loose, experimental and unpredictable. They traverse plenty of ground, from funk to soul to roots, and of course their trademark psychedelic jamming. This is the band’s first record with new drummer Tony Leone (Levon Helm, Ollabelle) and first since the departure of a founding member, bassist Mark ‘Muddy” Dutton. The band produced the record themselves. Robinson commented, “It’s all about taking our intuition and following it to where our ideas can really manifest themselves. This turned out to be the most spontaneous record I’ve ever been a part of.”
Some of that is likely attributable to the location of the recording sessions. The band set up in northern California, on the side of a mountain overlooking the foggy Pacific Ocean, and drew inspiration from the majestic and often mysterious scenery to lay down the eight extensive tracks. As you listen, you’d think that there are more than four players, but it’s simply the dual guitars of Robinson and Neal Casal along with the inventive keyboards of Adam MacDougall, all propelled by Leone’s Helm-inspired drumming.
The opener’s title, “Narcissus Soaking Wet,” gives early indications that this trip will be rather strange, as the band touches on a dizzying array of genres. Robinson’s voice is interesting, rather thin and high pitched, yet in certain moments he delivers soulfully. On almost all tunes, his bandmates provide background vocals. They do reach rootsy, Americana grooves on “Ain’t It Hard But Fair,” and “Oak Apple Day” has some of that flavor. “Leave My Guitar Alone” is a shuffle complete with an “ooby dooby” chorus. It gives the twin guitarists the opportunity to display their considerable chops. It’s as if they saved the best for last, as “California Hymn” echoes with soul and gospel complete with these lines, “Glory glory hallelujah/It’s time to spread the news/Though my good words may sound profane to some.”
CRB albums, this one included, are uneven by design, as they want to reveal their many styles and approaches, but they are well known for their jam-band, explosive live shows that are less limiting than a studio recording. Fortunately, the band tours often and they have added a new bass player, Jeff Hill, since this album was made. Give this a listen – you’ll find plenty of strong moments amidst others that are somewhat elusive.
– Jim Hynes