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Counting Crows drop new EP, planning ahead, 5 Things to Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Thursday, May 20, 2021

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Counting Crows tends to be a quality over quantity concern. But the seven year interim since "Somewhere Under Wonderland" has been long even by the band's exacting standards.

The wait ends with the Friday, May 21 release of "Butter Miracle, Suite One" -- not a full album but a four-track EP of songs frontman Adam Duritz wrote during a couple of pre-pandemic visits to a friend's farm in the west of England. More thematic than conceptual, "Butter Miracle" was recorded under quarantine conditions in New York with producer Brian Deck, who drove from his home base of Chicago rather than fly during the pandemic.

Despite its brevity the EP features a range of flavors, from the ambience of "The Tall Grass" to the glam rock flavor of "Elevator Boots" and the theatrical dynamics of "Bobby and the Rat Kings." More new music is already planned, and Counting Crows hopes to take flight back on the road by fall...

Duritz, 56, says by Zoom that he's learned not to sweat the long breaks that sometimes come between Counting Crows albums. "I've never been a steady songwriter. I hadn't been excited in awhile about writing. I always start writing and I lose my mind and get really into it. I write a while record, then we make the record and we tour and I don't write for three years. Somehow this has always worked like that for 30 years, so you can't argue with it."

Visiting the farm in England helped rekindle Duritz's enthusiasm and inspired the idea of putting together a suite of songs. "I wrote 'The Tall Gras,' and then I sang this line, 'Bobby was a kid from 'round the town' and I thought, 'Oh, that's really cool. I don't think that's part of this song, though. I think that's a different song,' and I was gonna start working on that. And then it hit me; What if I wrote a series of songs where the end of one is the beginning of the next? If I did that three, four, five more times, how would that be?' I had this idea in my brain about these songs flowing together. It was a really exciting thing to get into."

Duritz is planning another trip to England during June, where he hopes to finish writing songs for the second suite. "I'm in the middle of writing. I haven't finished any of the new ones yet. I've got a bunch of pieces. I'm going back to the farm in June -- maybe that's why I haven't finished them, waiting to get back there. Then I'll finish them, and as soon as we can we'll get in the studio and record them. It's very different than anything I've done before."

During the pandemic Duritz started a regular series of cooking shows on Instagram, filling in for the "Underwater Sunshine" podcast he put on hold. "I was kind of sitting around, like a lot of people, I suppose, and I was really afraid I would sit around for a year and not do anything. So I decided to learn to cook...everything in the world. I did the same kind of research I put into the podcast, read 30 recipes to learn how to cook one thing. For my girlfriend sometimes it was good, sometimes she had to eat things she didn't want to eat; She's still struggling with crawfish, and mushrooms. So in a lot of ways it was a special year, but terrifying all the same."

Duritz also made news pre-pandemic by cutting off his trademark dreadlocks "on a whim" -- when he arrived for his initial visit to England, in fact. That certainly set a stir through Counting Crows fans around the world. "Every time I passed the bathroom I would go in, close the door, stick my head into the sink and just wash it, because I'd couldn't do it for 30 years. And then it would dry real quickly because it was so easy now that it was (short). It took me about six months to break myself of the habit. (laughs) It's kind of growing back. When I first had the dreads yanked out, it didn't grow very well, but now it is. But I can't tell what it's going to be like."

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