Chris Robinson Brotherhood: Betty’s Blends Vol. 4: Betty’s Midwestern Magick Blends

Richard B. Simon on January 25, 2019

Pressed in baby-blue vinyl and sheathed in pink sleeves and occult symbology, Betty’s Blends Vol. 4 continues Chris Robinson Brotherhood’s series of vinyl sets mixed live and curated by Grateful Dead engineer Betty Cantor-Jackson. This time, the tracks were pulled from three Midwest gigs in the fall of 2016, with brand-new bassist Jeff Hill. Cantor-Jackson finds what she loved about the Jerry Garcia Band and turns it up—rock-and-roll, R&B, and laid-back organ funk mixed with the country-blues sound that is the band’s natural progression. This Chris Robinson Brotherhood is less ragged and wild, more tight and mature. Across six sides, the mix is balanced; the instruments serve the songs, a network tumbling through space rather than solos in parallel. “Forever as the Moon” opens Side A with electric piano. The drums shuffle, the guitar slides into a roar, and then Robinson sings his story, with a dash of cataclysm. The second track is a cover of Lieber and Butler’s lusty Mississippi country-funk “Down Home Girl” (recorded by both Alvin Robinson and The Rolling Stones). Neal Casal comps Keith Richards’ “Honky Tonk Women” chops to anchor us in time. Side B pairs the dark-groove “Narcissus Soaking Wet” with “Shadow Cosmos.” “Ain’t It Hard But Fair” is slower funk, laidback American rock, with a slick, New Orleans-style vocal jam. CRB add little to Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride” until they strip the psych break of structure and take it out into space. Then, you hear this band’s real, raw sound. The closing track is the Stones’ “Let It Bleed”—a country-tonk wink back to Side A.