Southern rock has many faces and sounds—you know what I’m talking about, right? That mix of heavy guitar and drums combined with lyrics and vocals you aren’t quite sure belong with a country song or straight up old-school blues? One thing is for sure, from the 1950s to today, the southern influence on all music can be heard everywhere you go.
Today’s highlighted band, The Black Crowes is no slouch when it comes to carrying the torch for southern roots. Hailing from Marietta, Georgia, they understand and have been influenced by all the great acts of their generation and the generation before. The band formed in the mid-80s when a few guys from the local high school decided to form a band. They took a lot of their sound from local acts like REM, and wanted to combine that sound with the legends like The Rolling Stones and Lynyrd Skynyrd. What formed was a semi-unique sound that caught the eye of Def American Recordings in 1989.
It’s funny how sometimes you look back at artists who’ve been making music for decades, and sometimes they never quite live up to the standards they set for themselves…this is one of those cases. The Black Crowes’ initial release, Shake Your Money Maker, is an album that you could easily describe as an instant classic—it sold more than 5 million copies in the U.S. alone. If you didn’t buy it back then, you can rejoice that now you can get it for much cheaper than most of those millions.
A guitar anthem called ‘Twice as Hard’ opens the album, and is a single that saw major radio play. That guitar riff has been noted as one of better ones in music history. The dirty guitar doesn’t stop with ‘Jealous Again,’ the next single. If you drop down to track six, you’ll hear a cover song from another southern legend, Otis Redding. ‘Hard to Handle’ was arguably the biggest single from the album, yet most people don’t even realize it’s a cover track. Funny, because it’s as close as you can be to being an exact replica.
Out of all the songs on the album, track eight is the reason this album will forever be so great to me. ‘She Talks To Angels’ consistently pops up on “best songs of all time” types of lists— including my own (it’s probably in my top 20 or so). It opens with that signature acoustic guitar and the lyrics and tone are so haunting. The story told in the song makes you reflect on people you might know who have gone through similar pain. The lead singer has talked about the song being loosely based on a woman he knew struggling with heroin addiction. Very sad subject matter converted into an amazing song.
I’m not sure there is a better way to describe this album, other than classic. Start to finish, it runs the gambit of blues to rock to a style of music that maybe I can’t even describe. All I know is that it’s a great album, and one I can listen to over and over again. And for a mere $5 bucks, it’s almost a steal.
Top three Tracks:
1) She Talks To Angels
2) Twice As Hard
3) Jealous Again
Other notes about the album:
-The album was released in 1990.
-It is the only Black Crowes album to feature Jeff Cease on guitar. Cease now plays with Eric Church.
-Both Hard to Handle and She Talks To Angels went to #1 on the charts.
-The band made 4 videos (remember those) to support the album.
-Guitarist Rich Robinson was just 17 when they recorded the album. They had to wait for him to graduate before they could tour. They opened for ZZ Top but got kicked off the tour after singer Chris Robinson criticized the corporate sponsorship onstage.
One of my favorite bands of all time. Second release “The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion” is probably my favorite. An amazing live band I have been fortunate enough to see not only on that ZZ Top tour but 8 other times as well.
Agreed James! I’ve seen the Crowes over 30 times. I really dig the Amorica era.
Thanks for the feedback and crestedchris, for posting additional notes. I’ve only seen them probably five times live, but agreed they put on a great show. ‘Southern Harmony’ was a fantastic record too. It’s been a while since I put that one on, but Remedy is a great tune and I recall getting a couple bonus tracks that I really loved.
I’d still personally have this record as my top pick – but you can’t go wrong with any of their first three albums especially.
If you like the Black Crows, you’re really going to like Blackberry Smoke. Look em up I guarantee you’ll be impressed.