Chris Robinson Brotherhood in Napa

Dawne Gilmore on December 15, 2015

photo by Stuart Levine

Chris Robinson Brotherhood
City Winery
Napa, CALIF.
December 3

Steamrolling into preeminent wine country, The Chris Robinson Brotherhood started December—like they have the last four months—in concert. Over four short years, CRB have carved a niche for themselves as soulful, blues-ripping, psychedelic space-cowboys. City Winery, located within the historic Napa Opera House, was an intimate setting for this muscular troupe, whose opening “Taking Care of Business” had the Opera House humming.

A handful of fluid, swaying songs followed, including “Jump The Turnstiles,” “Tornado” (a reworked Black Crowes tune) and “About A Stranger,” and a space-sonic jam emerged from

“Tulsa Yesterday.” The band changed gears with a soulful “(Last of the Old Time) Train Robbers,” which was gritty and deep, like days-old dirt on your boots. The earworm “40 Days” went in a third direction of hard rocking, with some delicate slide work from guitarist Neal Casal, and then back into some harder rockand- roll. On “Appaloosa” Casal coaxed quick, yet ethereal, high notes from his Scott Walker guitar, while drummer Tony Leone and bassist Mark “Muddy” Dutton brought the long, low tones in a conversation that is a signature element of this band.

Adam MacDougall added a Hammond B-3 to his rig right before CRB’s Nappa show and intricately weaved in the breathy, churchy organ for much of the show, but really took flight on “Sunday Sound” with a solo that built to a dramatic crescendo before it softened and ended like a fluffy lullaby. Another crowd favorite was the Dylan cover “She Belongs to Me,” which the band deconstructed with a sped-up tempo, and juiced with some sticky Southern rock.

Chris Robinson’s passionate, soulful vocal range has garnered a lot of attention since his days with The Black Crowes. Throughout the show, he was intense, loose, meditative and supernatural, casting a spell on those in attendance. His powerful, show-ending performance of Otis Redding’s “That’s How Strong My Love Is” gave credence to the masterful love song.

The Chris Robinson Brotherhood piles on an eclectic collection of formidable, accomplished musicians, taking their experimental craft to higher, wider and further-out places. The Brotherhood and their fans appear to be perfectly comfortable hunkered down inside this expressive musical sphere. Dawne Gilmore
The soulful, blues-ripping,