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Chris Robinson Brotherhood at Saint Andrew's, 3 Thins to Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

Posted: Sunday, November 18, 2018

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The bonds of musical Brotherhood remain strong for Chris Robinson.

Since 2011 the Black Crowes co-founder has led his Chris Robinson Brotherhood through six studio albums and a series of Betty's Blends live sets helmed by longtime Grateful Dead archivist and recording engineer Betty Cantor-Jackson. The latest of those -- "Betty's Midwestern Magick Blends" -- is just out, culled from 2016 concerts in Chicago, Milwaukee and Madison, Wisc., demonstrating again the quintet's open-ended, improvisational approach with material, both its own and covers (including Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Steppenwolf and Slim Harpo on the new set).

The Crowes may not be flying any longer, but Robinson still has plenty of Brotherhood to go around...

Robinson, 51, befriended Cantor-Jackson at Wavy Gravy's 70th birthday party a dozen years ago, which has led to four Betty's Blends albums for the CRB. "She basically said, 'I'm gonna record your band' -- I mean, you can't really stop her, y'know? I was like, 'OK, lady...' and it kinda went from there. I told her when we started, 'I'm not doing anything;' If it says Betty's Blends, it's her thing. We'll play the music. I'll facilitate the logistics and all that. But I said, 'You set up the mics, you do what you want to do. You pick the songs. It's all yours.' The only thing I kind of have dictated is, 'OK, let's do one from the South, let's do one from the Midwest. She's coming up to the Pacific Northwest in a couple of weeks. It's really just our friendship and just letting Betty have the freedom to do what she wants to do."

Robinson says by phone that the sound of the Betty's Blends albums is also different from big-budget live recording projects. "The rules are different for her because of where she comes from. Her ears are coming from a place where she's heard some of the best rock 'n' roll music ever made -- and not just the Grateful Dead. I'm talking about all manner of music; She tells stories of taking the Greyhound bus to Sacramento with Jimi Hendrix and the Jefferson Airplane. So she's looking for something that's hard to do and really capture the feel of the band playing in the room that night. I think her parameters are different, sonically."

The CRB is finishing work on its seventh studio album, "Servants of the Sun," for a mid-2019 release. Robinson notes that the follow-up to 2017's "Barefoot in the Head" marks the first time the quintet has recorded during the summer, which made a marked impact on how it sounds. I think it's really uptempo. The last few records had a lot of acoustic overdubs and acoustic flavors on things. On this record my only rule was no acoustic instruments -- no piano, no guitars, no mandolin, only electric. Everything on this is kind of built for the stage, if you will. And it's really good, man. It's going to sound really good when we play these songs live."

The Chris Robinson Brotherhood performs Sunday, Nov. 18, at Saint Andrews Hall, Detroit. Doors at 7 p.m. $25.15 and $38. 313-961-6358 or saintandrewsdetroit.com.

Web Site: www.saintandrewsdetroit.com

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