Black Crowes’ guitarist Rich Robinson returns with solo LP ‘The Ceaseless Sight’

By John M. Borack

As a founding member and lead guitarist for Southern blues rockers The Black Crowes, Rich Robinson — along with his brother and lead vocalist Chris — is responsible for some of the most artistically and commercially successful music of the early ’90s. The band’s first two albums (1990’s “Shake Your Moneymaker” and 1992’s “The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion”) both went multi-platinum, while singles including the haunting ballad “She Talks to Angels” and the funky jam “Hard to Handle” cracked the Billboard Top 40 and became staples of AOR radio.

Rich Robinson The Ceaseless SightBoth of the Robinson brothers have since launched solo careers during The Black Crowes’ various hiatuses, and Rich Robinson has recently unveiled his third solo effort, “The Ceaseless Sight.” Released on Brooklyn, N.Y.-based indie label The End Records and self-produced by Robinson, it’s a remarkably engaging record, with echoes of the Crowes’ signature Rolling Stones/Faces-influenced sound, but with many stylistic detours, and of course, plenty of ear-catching guitar.

From the unabashedly Stonesy opener “I Know You” (which Robinson delivers in his best Jagger-esque drawl) to the bright-eyed, sing-along folk of “One Road Hill” and the soulful, vaguely gospel-like ballad “The Giving Key,” all the way through to the atmospheric, moody instrumental “Obscure the Day” that closes out the album, “The Ceaseless Sight” is the sound of Rich Robinson finding his own voice.

Goldmine caught up with Robinson to ask a few questions about the new album and something he has in common with many Goldmine readers: a passion for vinyl.

GM: Tell us about the new record.
RR: I went up to Applehead Studios in Saugerties, N.Y., to record “The Ceaseless Sight” [because] I really feel comfortable there. I decided not to bring in full songs this time; I brought in mainly skeletons of songs and used the studio to flesh them out. {Drummer] Joe Magistro and I laid down all the basic tracks, and Marco Benevento came in and played some phenomenal keyboards. It was a great record to make, and it’s thematically looking forward.

This record is a representation of my songwriting. All 15 of my albums, be it with the Crowes or my solo work, have varied styles and influences, but filtered through me, which makes it all flow together.

If the music sounds half as gorgeous as the spattered color vinyl looks, buyers of Rich Robinson's new solo album, "The Ceaseless Sight," are in for one heck of a treat. The album, released via The End Records, is also available on CD.

If you love Southern rock and adore collecting vinyl records, you’re in for a treat with this gorgeous, spatter-patterned release of Rich Robinson’s new solo album, “The Ceaseless Sight.” The album, released via The End Records, is also available on CD.

GM: I’ve been told you’re a big fan of vinyl, and you’ve created some specialty “splattered vinyl” for this release. Why do you feel vinyl is still a viable medium?
RR: Vinyl has always played an important part in music. The experience involves more senses: to hold the record, the smell, having to be near it to change sides, and the sound being so warm and pleasing to the ears. It’s not as easy or convenient as an iPod or your phone, but that’s what’s good about it: You have to pay more attention. More is involved, so it becomes a broader experience. By following the steps to put on an album, I think you ultimately gain more respect for it, more respect for the effort put into making it, and manufacturing it.

GM: Do you remember some of the records you wore out as a kid?
RR: I loved Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s “Deja Vu,” and I was way into REM’s “Murmur.”

The Black Crowes (from left): Steve Gorman, Rich Robinson, Chris Robinson, Jackie Greene, Sven Pipien and Adam MacDougall. Ross Halfin photo.

The Black Crowes (from left): Steve Gorman, Rich Robinson, Chris Robinson, Jackie Greene, Sven Pipien and Adam MacDougall. If Rich Robinson had his druthers, he says he’d like Jackie Greene to be the band’s “permanent” second guitarist. Ross Halfin photo.

GM: A Black Crowes question: The band has had a number of guitar players sharing the stage with you over the years. How easy is it for you adapting to each different guitarist’s style?  Do you embrace it as a positive, or do you wish you could find a “permanent” second guitarist?
RR: The Black Crowes have been around for 25 years, so therefore it’s more a matter of how the new guitarist adapts to us. I would like Jackie [Greene, who joined the band in 2013] to be the permanent guitar player.

GM: After writing a song, do you hear in your head and know what guitar (Telecaster vs. Les Paul vs. ES335, etc.) you’ll use on that particular track, or is it more trial and error to find the perfect tone for a new tune? Did you have the solos worked out beforehand or did you hit record and say, “Let’s see what happens,” or was it some combination of both approaches?
RR: It’s more trial and error as far as the guitars. With the solos, I play what I feel. I listen back, then I play another one until it fits with the song.

GM: This is your third solo effort; how do you feel your songwriting and singing has evolved from record to record?
RR: I’m always working on ways to find that song that moves me.

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