It’s 1992. I’m too young for a license, but my cousin volunteers to teach me to drive his blue Chevy Cavalier on a dusty dirt road in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. From the tape deck, this gut-punching Southern rock n’ roll music surges into the car, and I am mystified. “What is this??” I think to myself, of this blues-infused goodness that is commandeering my senses. That tape was called Shake Your Money Maker, and that band was The Black Crowes.
“What it really comes down to is choice; if you follow your love and your passion, it will reignite an interest for real music,” says legendary guitarist and hitmaker Rich Robinson, who, among the many accolades associated with his name, is the co-founder of The Black Crowes. “All this horse shit has permeated the landscape for far too long, music has gotten away from the emotion. Is anyone really going to remember the day some pop princess released a record? It’s like going to a fast food place and getting a hamburger—it’s quick and easy. These days, there’s not much difference between a pop song and and a toaster,” he opines of the current industry landscape. “It’s all just commerce. Music is too important for that, it means more than that, and we owe it to ourselves as human beings and artists to always shoot for authenticity and meaning and something on a higher plane.”
Those are words to live by, and Robinson does just that. These days, he, along with some former Crowes bandmates, is making waves with a new project, Magpie Salute—a band that was never actually planned, but one that is filling a much-needed spot in the realm. Last year, Robinson, on tour supporting a solo release, was given the chance to do a live recording in Woodstock at the studio where he crafted his last few albums. “It was an organic process,” he begins. “I had done one of these before and I decided to change it up and invite Marc Ford to join me, and he did it without hesitation. There was no plan, I just wanted him to come play. When he said yes, I decided to invite Eddie Harsch because the three of us have always had this unexplainable musical connection,” adds Robinson. “We were going to play three shows, and that was it; bringing them into my solo band was really cool; we were supposed to have a day to rehearse, but Marc’s flight got cancelled, and he finally got there halfway through the show. He got on stage and sounded amazing,” he says. “That’s something that represents everything about this band.”
Robinson decided to incorporate some classic Crowes tracks into his set, and listeners couldn’t get enough. “For a lot of people, The Black Crowes’ music means so much to them, and when they saw us and heard them again, it was like a sigh of relief,” he remembers. “I thought, ‘Why couldn’t we do this?’ It’s all about inclusion this time, I didn’t want to lose anyone, so I brought my old bandmates into the fold along with a couple of singers. It just happened, and we dipped our toes in the water,” he says. “The next show sold out in 20 minutes.”
When it came time to give this musical force a name, Robinson revisited his fascination with avian mythology. “There’s a mystical connotation with birds,” he says. “Eagles and crows and owls and magpies, all of them have mystical histories, especially in indigenous cultures. There’s a strong superstition in the U.K., you salute the magpie to ward off evil spirits and have a good day, which stems from post-World War I. You salute the magpie by saying ‘Good morning, Captain,’” he adds with a laugh. “It’s new and it’s positive; the connotation of the crow is different than the connotation of the magpie—the magpie has elements of light and dark, and the crow, in a lot of cultures, is mysterious,” he continues. “There were a lot of elements that just worked.”
The Magpie Salute is currently on the road, unfortunately without Harsch, who passed away in November, to support the release of that seminal live recording, a tour which brings them to Nashville’s Marathon Music Works on Friday, August 25th. “The word is getting out, and more and more people are coming,” he reveals. “I see a lot of young people at our shows, and I love it. We’re just getting started. Everyone these days is caught up in genre, but at the end of the day, it comes down to connection, emotion, and creation,” he says. “That’s what rock n’ roll is all about.”
[Click HERE for tickets and show information.]