THE CHRIS ROBINSON BROTHERHOOD - Barefoot In The Head (2017)
Working at a whiplash speed that seems alien in the 21st century, when bands are pressured to work on three-year album cycles in a digital world when everything exists in an ever-present now, the Chris Robinson Brotherhood are prolific in a way that belies their blissed-out vibes. Barefoot in the Head is the band's fifth album of original material, arriving in a calendar year that also includes another studio album (Anyway You Love, We Know How You Feel, which appeared just about a year prior to Barefoot), a half-hour studio EP (If You Lived Here, You Would Be Home by Now), and a live LP (Betty's Self-Rising Southern Blends, Vol. 3). It's a release schedule that reads as frenetic, but Barefoot in the Head benefits from the CRB's work ethic. There's an elastic ease to its dusky grooves, grooves rooted in long-players from the dawn of the '70s. Sure, it's a throwback sensibility but the Chris Robinson Brotherhood aren't revivalists; they're torchbearers, carrying hippie blues traditions into a new century. A close listen of Barefoot in the Head reveals the new things the CRB bring to the table, namely a facility with funk ("Behold the Seer," "Blue Star Woman") and an ability to turn a smeary sunset into a warm psychedelic bath ("Glow"), but they are also expert in the old ways, as evidenced by the rustic charm on "High Is Not the Top." No matter how much the Chris Robinson Brotherhood emphasize vibe, the group doesn't disregard songs; the songs are nimble and open-ended, inviting exploration but also ready to be played simply. The result is the CRB's best record to date: one that captures their trippy side as easily as it showcases their sturdy foundation.
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