When it comes to The Black Crowes, the creative chemistry felt between guitarists Rich Robinson and Marc Ford resonated through classic Crowes albums such as “Amorica,” “Three Snakes & One Charm,” and “Southern Harmony & Musical Companion.”
Robinson’s latest musical venture, The Magpie Salute, is revival of that musical bond. The Magpie Salute reunites Robinson and Ford onstage with fellow Crowes alum Sven Pipien. With its impressive lineup of seasoned musicians, The Magpie Salute is bringing back that classic, Southern fried roots rock sound that made early Black Crowes material so great. With the release The Magpie Salute’s first single “Omission,” Robinson told Lagniappe’s Steve Centanni that the band is just getting started.
Centanni: There aren’t many Crowes fans who won’t say that “Southern Harmony” and “Amorica” are two of the band’s best albums. To me, part of it was the chemistry that you and Marc Ford had in the studio and on stage. From what I’ve been hearing from Magpie, that hasn’t changed. What’s it been like rekindling that chemistry with Ford?
Robinson: It’s been great. That’s why I called him. We’ve always had that sort of element. When the two of us get together for whatever reason, it’s one of those tangible things that creates this other thing. We’ve had a lot of great guitar players in the Crowes, but there’s that thing when we play together. Our ears are in tune to what’s going on with each other.
Band: An Evening with The Magpie Salute
Date: Tuesady, Oct. 24 with doors at 7 p.m.
Venue: Club LA, 34876 Emerald Coast Parkway (Destin), 850-654-5251
Tickets: $33 available through Ticketweb
Centanni: Vocals have always been part of the Crowes trademark sound. To handle that job, you tapped John Hogg, who couldn’t have been a more perfect choice. What made you want to throw him into the mix?
Robinson: So, John was in a band called Moke, and they opened up for the Crowes on the ‘By Your Side’ tour. Me and John just hit it off. They were a new band coming up, and they were on a six-week leg with us. We really loved those guys. I saw something in him back then. When the Crowes split up in 2001, I formed a band with John. I flew him over, and we started writing just to see what would happen. We started a band called Hookah Brown. It was short-lived, but it reaffirmed my belief that he was great and such an amazing, humble person. So, I’ve always kinda like to get him out of his shell a little bit.
A couple of years ago, I was playing in Seattle and honoring Jimmy Page at the Experience Music Project. We said, ‘Let’s bring John over, so he can sing.’ Jimmy was gonna be there, and Paul Rodgers and his people. So, John and I always kinda laugh because I kinda put him into these situations (chuckle). I was like, ‘You wanna fly over and sing Jimmy songs for him while Paul Rodgers stares at you?’ Everybody was laughing. He’s so talented and an amazing person. When I was putting this together, he was the first person that I thought of.
Centanni: Recording live in studio with an audience is something that you’re familiar with. What keeps you coming back to this method?
Robinson: There’s pros and cons to it. There’s some cool elements. There’s something to be said about going into a studio and taking some time. Having an audience in there (the studio) forces you to make decisions quickly. You don’t have time to putz around like you normally do. Then, there’s also an energy there. Anytime there’s a show, there’s people watching you. There’s this symbiotic energy where’s everybody is feeding off each other’s energy. That’s what’s cool about it. Having people in there and having their support just sort of raises what we do on stage and becomes this thing.
Centanni: “Omission” is a great introduction to the Magpie Salute. To me, it’s a revival of that edgy, Southern fried roots rock sound that always made the Crowes great. With all the places the Crowes have been with their music, what made you want to go back to that original formula?
Robinson: To me, there’s never been anything formulaic about the Crowes. The thing about the Crowes is that we had the freedom to go wherever we wanted. As we got to be better musicians and songwriters, we really went a lot of places. It’s like a musical exploration. We would travel and see what was out there. We wanted to make a record that had the tonal quality of ‘Led Zeppelin III,’ and we made ‘Three Snakes & One Charm.’ ‘Southern Harmony’ was basically a live rock ‘n’ roll record that we made in eight days.
We went in, knocked it out, and it was done. ‘Amorica’ was definitely a sonic exploration. We really took our time and went in for over a year to make that record. We’ve kinda been all over the map. The way I write back then and now is just what comes and dictates what the record will be. There’s never been a forced way to go backwards. There’s also something to be said about great riffs and hearing John’s sing the way he sings and the band being able to play that music. I love the freedom to whatever we can and whatever we want.
Centanni: The band has been gaining momentum quickly. What’s the next step?
Robinson: After the tour ends in November, we’re going into the studio in January or February to make a double-album of all new material.