The Black Crowes were one of those bands that came out of nowhere, and somehow ended up somewhere. Their 1990 debut, Shake Your Money Maker
, was a surprise success, with songs like "Hard to Handle" and "She Talks to Angels" taken in by radio stations and music-telivision alike, guaranteeing some prosperity in the process. While that album set the blueprint for the rest of their 10+ year career, The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion
, their sophomore release, was their true masterpiece. The album shows progressions and changes in the band's sound, moving on from straight-up rock 'n' roll to a more soulful, gritty, and more though-out sound.
There are a few things that are easily noticeable on The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion
. The Black Crowes added female backup singers, who add fine touches to many of the songs on here. Their soulful, sensual voices add even more to the brisk swagger of Chris Robinson. Here, more so than on Shake Your Money Maker
, the guitar interplay of Young Rich Robinson and Jeff Cease stands out. Each guitarist is placed on a different side, making it fairly easy to decipher who is playing what, and also making it easier to notice little nuances and intricacies. The album as a whole sounds more Southern, which is slightly obvious if you take the time to look at the title of the album, and even the cover. There is plenty of acoustic guitars, organ, and harmonica to add variety to the songs, along with the down-and-dirty rockers that are scattered through the album, making it a more varied and an enjoyable listen compared to their first.
Now that I sit back and think about it, this album is nearly perfect in every sense of the controversial word. The band operates on a tight, yet somehow extremely loose and groovy feel, with the rhythm section providing a solid backing to the songs. Both guitarists add fills and craft enjoyable and catchy riffs, with loads of soul and Southern tinge. There are plenty of swaggering, sexy rockers like "Sting One," "Hotel Illness," "Black Moon Creeping," and "No Speak No Slave" that are perfectly executed, yet still retaining a loose and sloppy feel to them, somehow making them even more charming and enoyable. There are also slower songs like the blues ballad "Thorn in My Pride" and the acoustic-driven "Time Will Tell," easily the most "Southern" song on the album, with an unrelenting soul feel to it, providing a perfect ending to a perfect album. This really is a perfect album, and I feel that is oft-ignored in the world of music. It is a passionate, soulful, raw, dirty album. How can someone make an album this
good? I don't really know.