Chris Robinson Brotherhood: Servants of the Sun
On Chris Robinson Brotherhood’s sixth full-length studio release, there is no question that they are a fully matured band of players, confident and deft with their tricks. The record is slick and tight enough to feel a bit like a generic classic-rock record. But beneath the surface—and Robinson’s wizardly offerings of folk wisdom—is a more sophisticated architecture of country, Southern rock, riff-prog and sincere art-rock songcraft. The album opens, disconcertingly, with “Some Earthly Delights”—its hook sounds like an ‘80s synthpop number, with a jittery, bouncy beat. It shifts into a dual-guitar triumphalism, an ode to nature— mountains, dragonflies and bumblebees. “Let It Fall” is a cajun piece, a Bo Diddley shuffle with Neal Casal’s slide-guitar leads set against Adam MacDougall’s Rhodes
and Robinson’s rhythm. The choirlike vocal harmonies surprise—the sweetest heard yet on a CRB record. This band is constantly negotiating the terrain among their influences, threading the creek between—on this LP—Southern and British rock, improv jam and headmelt funk, river country twang and arthouse drama. “Venus in Chrome” is a polished pop song, with a clearly enunciated bassline—and even a chorus. CRB are harnessing the library of country, funk and psychedelic textures they’ve been building over the last eight years, and putting them in the service of tightly arranged prog/pop that shifts from groove to groove. You can feel the songs themselves chomping at the bit—they’re built to be played live. It’s a shame that those live readings will be without the cosmic synth weirdness of MacDougall, who left the band as this record came to press.