The Black Crowes is a timeless bluesy rock group whose hits are still resonant nearly three decades after the band’s debut album. When The Black Crowes released its first single “Jealous Again,” the year was 1990, frontman Chris Robinson was a mere 23 years of age, and my mind was officially blown.
The fanbase of The Black Crowes spans all ages and even people who aren’t necessarily rock music aficionados appreciate their talent, much like myself. Although the group hasn’t released new material in some time, they’re still drawing huge crowds at live shows.
So, what are the best songs by The Black Crowes? Only their especially classic releases could be considered, but I believe, and I’m sure some would agree, that any album contains at least one of their favorites.
Top Songs by the Black Crowes
“Remedy” is a song that perfectly marries both soulful lyrics with straightforward bluesy rock and roll. The back-up singers only add to Robinson’s vocals on the chorus.
The guitar is blues perfection. Add to that a strong percussion rhythm, and “Remedy” is the perfect Black Crowes single.
“Hard to Handle”
“Hard to Handle” was so popular that it was revamped with a brass section. Some Black Crowes enthusiasts don’t particularly care for this single simply because it was overplayed on the radio (the horn section version certainly was).
Others say that “Twice as Hard” and “Hard to Handle” are really two sides of the same coin. However, “Hard to Handle” showed the vocal range of Chris Robinson, who offered both scathing vocals as well as the ability to scat the lyrics.
“She Talks to Angels”
Perhaps the most popular Black Crowes’ song at least in the area of air play, “She Talks to Angels” is a classic tune that is so indicative of the time. The song portrays a young woman battling addiction; the single reached number two on the pop charts.
This song broke The Black Crowes into a scene where Seattle Sound was king. The Black Crowes held their own in a time when bluesy rock wasn’t quite “in.”
“Thorn in My Pride”
“Thorn in my Pride” is another fan favorite whether it’s being played via the radio or live; in fact, some fans prefer the jam in a live setting.
Some prefer this song to the Black Crowes’ iconic “She Talks to Angels,” simply because this song didn’t garner as much radio play as “Angels” did. The instrumentation on this ballad is full and powerful. Robinson’s vocals are brilliant.
“Twice As Hard”
This song about a love gone wrong is another fan favorite, and it garnered much radio play as well as rotations on Music Television.
Again, the bluesy intro simply pulls listeners in, and the guitar riffs sound much like Zepplin or Eric Clapton. “Twice as Hard” was also on the Shake Your Money Maker album, and it helped put the band on the musical map of the 1990s.
Arguably, “Jealous Again,” the initial offering from The Black Crowes’ Shake Your Money Maker is a fan favorite. Brothers Chris and Rich Robinson penned the tune, and it is everything The Black Crowes has always been – straightforward, unapologetic rock.
The song hit the number five position on the Billboard Mainstream charts, but only made it to number 75 on the Billboard Hot 100. Nevertheless, rock fans love this song.
“Soul Singing” is a classic favorite for Black Crowes fans.
The song showcases Chris Robinson’s blues vocals, and the sound of the song is a great mix of Southern Rock, Classic Rock riffs, and a strong percussion backbone. At the same time, the song is all original and the arrangement is captivating.
This bluesy and funky track from the Amorica album offers catchy guitar riffs as well as a strong showing of the group’s influences.
Robinson’s strong vocals set off the mesmerizing lyrics. Sounding much like Clapton, Cream, or perhaps even a little Led Zepplin, this song is classic Black Crowes.
The Black Crowes’ Shake Your Money Maker has always been a fan favorite, and “Sometimes Salvation” is quite reminiscent of that album.
This track is from the band’s second album, The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion and it offers the signature bluesy sound the band is renowned for.
“Wee Who See the Deep”
This offering from the 2008 album Warpaint is a blues offering that is heavily anchored in classic rock guitar sounds.
This song is made better only by the presence of the North Mississippi All-stars’ Luther Dickinson, who lent some searing guitar riffs to the track.
Classic southern rock tune “Evergreen” was described by front man Chris Robinson as “an example of a one-take”. Guitarist Luther Dickinson from North Mississippi Allstars, who was invited to join the band for their Warpaint album, shreds his solo in one seamless recording.
The tender love song pays tribute to someone who has an eternal youthful quality, and who the singer feels they would do anything for. It begs the object of the track, addressed as ‘Evergreen’, to “steal away with me by the moonlight”.
“High Head Blues”
“High Head Blues” is a Latin-tinged track that discusses sobriety, addiction and enjoying the feeling of being high. When the singer is intoxicated he is “sunshine high, head fine” but when he’s sober he is “cold, old and mean”. It’s a warm, slightly tongue-in-cheek ode to marijuana, incorporating a Spanish phrase into the mix that means, “This is the best weed.”
The Black Crowes were known for their love of marijuana in their Amorica era. In 1992 they appeared on the cover of High Times magazine, a journal of all things cannabis-related, and they also played at the Atlanta Pot Festival.
“Goodbye Daughters Of The Revolution”
The Black Crowes wave goodbye to the age of revolution in “Goodbye Daughters Of The Revolution”. They sing about how the world is aware that that they’re stuck in a flawed system, but the drive to be free of it is diminished when it becomes more comfortable to stay in the system than to run for the gates.
“Goodbye Daughters Of The Revolution” remains one of the band’s most passionate and stirring performances, equal parts invigorating and apathetic in a way that perfectly captures what they perceive to be the prevailing mood of the nation.
Folky track “Whoa Mule!” opens with an acapella section that sounds as if it could have been recorded around a campfire. As the track continues, the Black Crowes bring in different parts of their roots, with influences ranging from Appalachian to English folk. Unlike much of Warpaint, “Whoa Mule!” errs much more heavily on the ‘Southern’ part of Southern rock.
The Black Crowes consider the gentle but emotive track “one of the most optimistic songs we’ve ever written”, according to front man Chris Robinson. The track encourages listeners to hold onto their aspirations, no matter how far away they seem. “We’re dirty but we’re dreaming,” sings Robinson.
“I Ain’t Hiding”
The blues-rock song “I Ain’t Hiding” was released a month before the rest of Before The Frost…Until The Freeze as a free download. It was intended to be a link between previous album Warpaint and the new record, introducing a new yet still familiar sound.
Like the rest of Before The Frost…Until The Freeze, “I Ain’t Hiding” was recorded in front of a live audience of about 200 at the Woodstock barn and studio in New York, and took several takes as the band weren’t yet very familiar with the song. In terms of message, the song is a fairly straightforward out to living large and loud, especially when it comes to a night out dancing.
“Movin’ On Down The Line”
“Movin’ On Down The Line” was the first song recorded for Warpaint. An excruciating slow build that becomes an exciting, electric Southern rock offering, it summarises a great many of the Black Crowes’ musical styles and themes, expressing a euphoric self-acceptance and an encouragement to keep on pushing forward.
“Oh Josephine” is one of the most beautiful songs in the Black Crowes entire discography. Softer than many of their tracks, it still epitomises their attitude of giving life and love everything you’ve got and is one of the songs that front man Chris Robinson purports to be the proudest of.
The track pays tribute to a woman called Josephine who the narrator loves past the point of return. When Robinson’s folky vocals finish telling the story and issue a final plea to Josephine to “let it all ride”, guitarists Rich Robinson and Luther Dickinson come in with a pair of duelling guitars for a two-minute coda.
“There’s Gold In Them Hills”
A young hopeful sets out into the wilderness in search of gold in this powerful guitar ballad. However, it seems that the promise of gold may have been exaggerated, and the man finds himself lamenting the person he used to be and apologising to his mother for leaving. “There’s Gold In Them Hills” acts as an allegory for the music industry and the young people who enter it with big dreams only to have them dashed.
“Walk Believer Walk”
Ferocious blues song “Walk Believer Walk”. Invigorating and almost angry in its passion, it urges the listener forward like many other Black Crowes songs. However, whilst elsewhere in their discography this is done with optimism and uplifting words, here there is urgency and darkness. Chris Robinson sings of demons and devils that threaten the path and a destination that takes the walker “straight into the sun”.
“Wounded Bird” was built around an infectious guitar riff from Rich Robinson that inspired his brother Chris to write about loss and grief. However, rather than pen a gentle ballad, Chris sang a furious battle cry that urges the listener to dive deeper into life and all its experiences.
Even though he admitted that the track could be perceived as “harsh”, Chris felt strongly when he wrote “Wounded Bird” that hiding from the painful parts of life was not the way to fully experience living. “Don’t look back my wounded bird, there’s nothing for you here,” he sings.
“Locust Street” is an easy, Southern roots ode to those who have been let down by life. With little to get excited about, the residents of Locust Street simply carry on without love or a safe place to hide. Said Robinson: “There’s a ‘Locust Street’ in every town in America.” He reminds the listeners that even those who inhabit Locust Street are not alone.
Caitlin Devlin is a music, entertainment and lifestyle writer based in London. When she’s not creating playlists for Repeat Replay, she’s reviewing gigs and interviewing artists for Ticketmaster UK and thinking about what her Spotify Wrapped will look like this year.