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Southern Remedy On The River: The Black Crowes In Chattanooga, Tennessee

Posted: Jun 07, 2008

Southern Remedy On The River: The Black Crowes Perform Chattanooga, Tennessee 6/7/08

                          "Windswept stars blink and smile,
                           Another song, another mile..."
                                        --"Wiser Time"
                                        The Black Crowes

 
…Let this brief dispatch serve as a prelude to a larger, definitive upcoming article on The Black Crowes

If you want a taste of the real south…Chattanooga certainly contains grains of traditional ways in the Tennessee hills. The ride in from Atlanta felt easy. After a brief directional-sidetrack, I checked into the hotel room. I get acclimated and send Luther Dickinson a text inquiring when I should trek down to the venue. He replied a couple minutes later saying they’re still in Atlanta…

So I walk downtown…lots of pretty girls walking around in summer clothes on this 95 degree-heat day. The Riverbend Festival is three blocks away, near The Tennessee River. The Black Crowes close the festival this evening. ZZ Top performs next week as well as various other artists of all genres. Since I brought Luther his Goodbye Babylon present last week…I thought I’d bring Chris Robinson some vintage southern literature. I wanted to bring him Cormac McCarthy’s SuttreeMcCarthy’s from Tennessee and what better place to make the exchange…Chattanooga was the place where the Crowes played their first concert over 23 years ago… and the check from the club owner bounced.

I lucked out at Rock Point Books and bought a brand new copy of Suttree with Stanley Booth’s blurb on the back cover. As I walk out of the bookstore, a sun-burned woman approached me. She introduced herself as Andy Tallent—Chattanooga’s only street poet. “I’ll recite some of my poetry for a few dollars,” she said. Having always kept a soft-spot for poetry, I listened to her poem about positivity, negativity and Bob Marley. I then quoted her a John Keats poem: “Come then sorrow/Sweetest sorrow/Like a babe I nurse thee on thy breast/I thought to leave thee and deceive thee/But now of all the world I love thee best.” I gave her five dollars. “That was great," she replied. "Are you in town for The Black Crowes tonight?” Well...as a matter of fact...yes...

Tonight counts as a festival show. Tomorrow the Crowes travel to St. Louis. Then they take a couple weeks off before they stay out on the road for the rest of the year. An old friend of mine drove into town for the show. The heat was outrageous as we made it down to the festival. I picked up my pass and made my way down to the big dock on the river where the Crowes were arriving by boat. This huge stage (they needed cranes to get the equipment and gear on the stage) does not rank as the most audience friendly venue…even though large screens project images across the festival grounds. The performer stands on a huge-high stage, separated from the audience by a moat. However, it’s an atmospheric location, and it was certainly a Black Crowes crowd, but these festival crowds always attract the most casual-radio friendly audience....

The Crowes arrived to the venue by boat. They stepped onto the small pier, and went to do a quick meet and greet. In such a festival schedule, they were a little pressed for time once they got off the boat…not much time for small talk. I gave Chris the copy of Suttree, which he grinned--"Ah, thank you. Cheers." We gave a soul-brother handshake and soon he went off to speak with Rich. There's no doubt, the electricity surrounding The Crowes remains undeniable. Luther and I remained on the dock talking about Cormac, Goodbye Babylon, last week’s show in Atlanta and his father—Jim Dickinson--contributing to Mystery & Manners. Luther told me he just finished McCarthy's unsettling book Child of God, and now he was reading Blood Meridian. I interviewed the Crowes’ keyboardist, Adam MacDougall, last week and that interview should turn up soon. He and I had a few laughs. It was a family-oriented atmosphere for the band, so I just tried to stay out of the way. I’m always a little uncomfortable being around any band—on their turf—while they’re on the job. I stood on the lip of the stage, behind the amp cases as the Crowes conjured up their own mojo-blend of American rock and roll for a large, enthusiastic crowd.

They opened with two new songs “Wounded Bird” and “Goodbye Daughters of the Revolution” before they played the old favorite “Jealous Again”. There's no doubt this band will be the hottest ticket this summer to see perform live. No other band holds traditional American music in such high regard as The Black Crowes. They rendered Delaney Bramlett’s “Poor Elijah/Tribute to Johnson” as they began to warm up the crowd. They played the classic “Wiser Time” which illustrated how well Luther and Adam fit into the Crowes as they begin to learn the group's extensive repertoire. They played a new lowdown blues original, “Walk Believer Walk”, which confirmed—once again—how well the Crowes’ music translates from disc to the stage. Rich Robinson--hands down ranks as one of the finest guitar players/songwriters around. Chris--the jackdaw of perception--plays a variety of instruments, writes strong songs and his skills as a producer will become more apparent as time passes.

A crowd favorite, “Thorn In My Pride”, sounded great and then they turned it up a notch with the old standby, “Sting Me”. Without question, the Black Crowes have established themselves as one of America's most important bands in the last 20 years. “Soul Singing” always proves a great sing-along for the crowd. It seems they cut a song or two from the setlist. The Crowes closed the show with “Remedy”, and they soon made their way out of the venue down by the river, to their tour bus and then on an 8-hour ride to St. Louis for the show Saturday. The band gave the crowd a couple of radio-friendly hits, but they do not totally surrender and play their popular songs. For example, no "Hard To Handle" or "She Talks To Angels" tonight. But, nothing from Three Snakes And One Charm either...

The Crowes’ Chattanooga show proved an interesting place to see these southern sons perform for a welcoming crowd on the river. It serves as an indication of what is to come out on the road this year with the band. I suggest you seek out The Crowes this summer. I send out kudos to The Crowes for their hospitality. I'll see them again soon…

Movin’ On Down The Line,
James Calemine

related tags

Mystery and Manners,
Memphis,
Atlanta,
Tennessee,
Mississippi,
Georgia,
Discourse,
Music,

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