The Chris Robinson Brotherhood deserves special kudos for the creative approach they've taken to the latest release in their series of live concert recordings. The limited edition three-LP version of Betty's Blends Vol. 3 Self Rising Southern Blends
includes a pair of CD's containing a West Coast concert recorded on a 2015 tour earlier than the main content.
Unlike those recordings, selected from shows on a swing through Southern states late that year, these two discs manifest an unmistakable momentum through the course of sixteen cuts and, more importantly, contradict an impression of a somewhat errant evolution in the CRB's chosen style. While keyboardist Adam MacDougall, linchpin of the latter-day lineups of the Black Crowes, can sometimes use synthesizers prominently to a fault, the syncopations of his clavinet work enhance the earthy textures inf the rest of the band's playing on "Boppin' the Blues," while his interplay with guitarist Neal Casal dramatically elevates "Roan County Banjo."
The Brotherhood's song selection on this West Coast concert is, as usual, is quite astute. While there are some CRB originals such as the latter number, only that track, "I'm A Hog For You," "Got Love If You Want It" reappear on this value-added item from the main content of Betty's Vol. 3
. A further distinction. applicable in fact to both sets, is the preponderance of cover material by which the group which demonstrates an expansive grasp of roots that both includes and transcends their fondness for the oeuvre of the Grateful Dead
Long a Bob Weir spotlight, "Big River" is more obvious a reference point than "Catfish John," which derives from the extensive repertoire of the Jerry Garcia Band, but it also represents a country influence from Get Rhythm - A Tribute to Johnny Cash
and Marty Robbins that's balanced by blues icon Slim Harpo
's "The Music's Hot;" it's here the frontman and namesake of the group contributes tart harp playing that fully offsets any sterility from electronic keyboards.
Adorned with psychedelic gold, black and blue graphics similar to, but less ornate, than that of the vinyl and CD issues of this Self-Rising Southern Blends
, the almost identical design of these two CD's within their single sleeves is, unfortunately, little more practical than that of the limited edition set of vinyl in which they're inserted. For one thing, there's neither information documenting the entirety of the June 26, 2015 performance at the West coast venue nor technical detail appropriately crediting Betty Canto-Jackson's engineering expertise. And in a perhaps more egregious oversight given CRB's evolution-drummer Tony Leone was fairly early in his tenure while bassist Mark Dutton was nearing his departure-proper personnel documentation of the ensemble is missing.
No doubt economics play a part in the packaging decisions here, as with the CD version of the main title where the song sequence is formatted for LP sides. But more notable still is the omission of b&w stage photos and a group shot with Betty Cantor-Jackson in the larger package: no doubt the Chris Robinson Brotherhood's legion of fans, as well as those casually curious about the group in general and this project in particular, would find such information enlightening. More important still, those oversights, minor as they may be, contradict this group's abiding devotion to their music, as represented by record releases like this one coming out almost as regularly as the band goes on tour.
CD 1:Boppin' the Blues; Roan County Banjo; Badlands Here We Come; I'm a Hog
for You; Jump the Turnstiles; Star or Stone; Meanwhile in the Gods...;
Honeysuckle Interlude; Tales of Thunder Teeth. CD 2: Tulsa Yesterday; One
Hundred Days of Rain; Beggar's Moon; Shore Power; Got Love If You Want It ; Big
River; Catfish John.
Chris Robinson: vocals, guitar, harp; Neal Casal: guitar, vocals; Adam MacDougall:
keyboards, vocals; Mark Dutton: bass, vocals; Tony Leone: drums.