Chris Robinson Brotherhood : Big Moon Ritual

A Chris Robinson-steered ship has yet to drift so far from yesterday and just beyond tomorrow’s horizon until the recent release of the Chris Robinson Brotherhood’s Big Moon Ritual (Red General Catalog).  If there is a lesson to share it is psychedelic by way of extended cosmic creativity; seven tunes that clock in at over 60 minutes.  A new-found weirdness that could only be on campestral land near the Pacific Coast Highway and next to Jesse Winchester’s Mississippi that is on everyone’s mind somewhere just beyond the last echoes of The Black Crowes and even the Brotherood’s closer cousin, CR’s New Earth Mud.

When the Crowes set their stove to simmer in 2011, Robinson concocted a bitch’s brew, stewing together in his cauldron a group of musicians that he found existing in his new dimension, with each new ingredient bringing together a bouillabaisse with all the requisite herbs and spices.  The result is a cohesive five piece band that turned a mini Northern California tour into a full-fledged national machine with the subject album done and its companion, The Magic Door, slated for release sometime early fall.  Big Moon Ritual takes from the likes of Jerry Garcia, The Incredible String Band, John Martyn and Doug Sahm.  Along side Robinson, the Brotherhood features Adam MacDougall (of late model Crowes vintage) on keys, the one-time rumored Marc Ford replacement Neal Casal (Ryan Adams and the Cardinals) on guitar, Muddy Dutton (once bandmates with Marc Ford in Burning Tree) on bass and George Sluppick on drums, all picking up slack on harmonies.

Robinson proudly claims a new head space, a familiar muse, a peak of inspiration and perhaps indulgence.  It’s a different indulgence;  lost are bitter whispers and powders, found are sun-splashed beards and enough weed to get them to the next five shows, at least.  The result is Big Moon Ritual, an album that tells us we need not find the least diabolical port-a-potty at a summer’s music festival to see if the psychedelics are working. Here, they are working, sending you on a trip without the foul stench of crowd whoring and gimmicks.

The aforementioned “Rosalee” pops along, developing the mantra “is the air getting thinner, are we getting high?” Any complaints that the record is too spacey are deflated with this loose-lipped track that just feels so damn good, the Malibu sand moving below the shuffling melody that leads listeners free dancing along the California coastline.

Played first by previous Robinson project New Earth Mud and immediately revered, “Reflections on a Broken Mirror” channels Garcia with the expanding touch of gray in Robinson’s beard. This is CRB at its best — songwriting eclipsing playing, instrumentation setting itself apart from lyrics, all with the familiar feel of Robinson’s lament that sometimes things are really as twisted as they seem.

Strange is engineered by these fine musicians on this California-born, train-jumping trip.  Big Moon Ritual follows its own star with indulgence but without taking orbit too far from its listener’s planet.  The Brotherhood gives us room to zoom in and out, make our own blanket on which to find comfort and solace in ethereal psychedelic rock and roll.  There is instruction that this illusion is only real if you find yourself lost in the music, but it is without question the ritual under that big moon is now the county seat of psychedelic improbability.

Big Moon Ritual is out now on Red General Catalog.