Right from their debut single “Jealous Again” in 1990, the Black Crowes delivered some Southern grit with their bluesier rock repertoire.
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Off their triumphant debut Shake Your Money Maker and the aforementioned hit, along with classics “Hard to Handle” and “She Talks to Angels,” the Georgia rockers’ catalog was always led by brothers in arms, and lead co-writers Chris and Rich Robinson. The band’s hits continued on through 1992 follow-up The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion, which shot to the top of the chart.
The band’s subsequent releases — Amorica (1994), Three Snakes and One Charm (1996), By Your Side (1999), and Lions (2001) — were all hefty offerings from the rockers before a hiatus. The Black Crowes returned with their seventh album, Warpaint, in 2006, which went to No. 5 on the Billboard 200, followed by the band’s 2009 release Before the Frost…Until the Freeze.
Through the Crowes’ many lineups and hiatuses over the years, the one constant has been the brothers Robinson since their first incarnation of the band, Mr. Crowe’s Garden, in 1984.
Though the Black Crowes haven’t released an album of original material in nearly 15 years, their extensive catalog leaves plenty to choose from when picking some greats.
Here’s a look at 10 of the band’s standout songs from 1990 through 2009.
1. “Twice as Hard” (1990)
The Black Crowes scored four hits on their debut Shake Your Money Maker, including “She Talks to Angels,” “Jealous Again,” and the band’s cover of Otis Redding’s 1968 song “Hard To Handle.” Opening the album, “Twice as Hard,” which hit No. 11 on the Mainstream Rock chart, set the Crowes’ harder blues-rock bar of sound. The song is about how hard it is to leave someone … for a second time.
Your sister always singing
She play the stepchild
A broken little memory
Her heart was never kind
Tell me I’m blind
2. “She Talks to Angels” (1990)
The fourth single off Shake Your Money Maker, “She Talks to Angels” hit No. 1 on the Billboard Album Rock Tracks chart. The song was loosely based on some of the characters Chris Robinson encountered during his earlier Atlanta club days, including one a goth girl who was on heroin. The line She paints her eyes as black as night came to Robinson, so he continued writing a fictitious story about her that turned into “She Talks to Angels.”
“‘She Talks to Angels” is a funny song in that so many people resonate with it,” said Robinson. “The dark details like drugs and things like that would be a part of growing up and being in this world, but when I wrote that song I had no idea. I hadn’t done any of those things. I hadn’t lived that. Everything was in my imagination.”
She paints her eyes as black as night now
She pulls her shades down tight
Girl, give a smile when the pain come
Pain, the only thing don’t make it alright
Says she talks to angels
Said they call her out by her name
Oh well, she talks to angels
And they call her out by her name
3. “Thorn in My Pride” (1992)
Bringing even more musical and lyrical depth on their second album The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion, “Thorn in My Pride” examines the healing that comes along with facing one’s inner demons.
Are you wanting inspiration?
You spill your secrets on me
Then you tell me with a whisper
Of things that will never be
Do you hear me breathing?
Does it make you want to scream
Did you ever like a bad dream?
Hey, sometimes life is obscene
4. “Remedy” (1992)
Also off The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion, the Black Crowes’ hit No. 1 on the Billboard Album Rock Tracks chart in May 1992 with their rapturous “Remedy.” The single remained on the chart for 11 weeks.
“’Remedy” is a song that essentially is about freedom,” said Chris Robinson. “We were into the whole idea that the ‘war on drugs’ was just silly. It was this asinine concept to me and millions of other people. So that song to me is about freedom, plain and simple—just put in a rock and roll framework.”
I remember all of the things that I thought I wanted to be
So desperate to find a way out of my world and finally breathe
Right before my eyes, I saw that my heart, it came to life
This ain’t easy, it’s not meant to be
Every story has its scars
5. “My Morning Song” (1992)
The penultimate, and second-longest track off The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion (clocking in at 6:15 minutes), “My Morning Song” is a bluesier sermon on being intoxicated for an unending amount of time.
Dizzy found me last night
Saw some kind of new light
I woke up in a whirlwind
Just you watch my head spin
The spectacle that made you cry
It’s a thrill a minute plane ride
It’s over time at ring side, no lie
6. “A Conspiracy” (1994)
Opening with a one-two punch of “Gone” and “A Conspiracy,” the Blacks Crowes shared more debaucherous tales on their third album Amorica. Chris Robinson said the album was “somewhere north of hell and south of heaven.”
Did you ever hear
The one about last year
It was all a lie
Ain’t it funny how the time flies
What we gonna do baby
What is left for us to prove
I’ve never stolen nothing, not a thing
Tried to stay away from this year’s
Ain’t as easy as it seems
To find a mutual dream
7. “Wiser Time” (1994)
“Wiser Time” is an ode to the rough and tumble times that come with life on the road, and learning to live the new “normal” over time. “It’s a song about constantly being in motion which has been happening to my brother and I for the last 30 years,” said Chris Robinson. “It’s a nice experience once you get used to it.”
The song peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard Album Rock Tracks chart.
No time left now for shame, horizon behind me, no more pain
Windswept stars blink and smile, another song, another mile
You read the line every time, ask me about crime in my mind
Ask me why another read song, funny but I bet you never left home
On a good day, it’s not every day,
We can part the sea
And on a bad day, it’s not every day,
Glory beyond our reach
8. “Kickin’ My Heart Around” (1999)
Following the band’s fourth album, Three Snakes and One Charm, the Black Crowes started working on their next release By Your Side. Recorded in New York City at Avatar Studios, the album was initially pieced together from songs off the band’s shelved 1997 album Band. Throughout the sessions with producer Kevin Shirley (Iron Maiden, Rush, Journey), the Black Crowes added new tracks, including “Kickin’ My Heart Around.”
Just come out and say it
Spit the words out of your mouth
It needs no explaining
Cause we both felt it go south
9. “Oh, Josephine” (2008)
Off the band’s seventh album, Warpaint, the chilled-out ballad of “Oh Josephine” is a song Rich Robinson called “my favorite song we’ve ever written.”
Of the song’s final verse—It’s too late to play it safe / So let’s let it all ride—Chris Robinson added, “I wrote that verse in the studio. I felt that everybody knew what I was talking about – that it was about all of us. There’s nothing to think about anymore. There’s no hesitation. This is what we’ve been waiting for. This is what we do now. This is where we go. The only thing we have to deal with now is, do we want it to go away? Do we want to regress?”
Diamonds hold mirrors and spoon it holds the stars
It’s been a long time baby since I’ve seen the sunrise like this
Make a wish and call it maybe and give me one more kiss
Ooh, I like it like this, oh, I like it like this
Oh Josephine you’re dressed in black
Oh Josephine your eyes are blue
And I know now there’s no turning back
Oh Josephine what will we do?
10. “I Ain’t Hiding” (2009)
The Black Crowes’ eighth album, Before the Frost…Until the Freeze, was produced by longtime collaborator Paul Stacey, who had also worked with Oasis and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. The project was recorded over five nights in front of a live audience at the Woodstock, New York, barn/studio owned by the late drummer and vocalist of The Band, Levon Helm.
Though a majority of the Crowes’ catalog was always written by both brothers, the countrified rocker “I Ain’t Hiding” was one Chris penned on his own.
Rust on my pickups
And blood on the stage
Seeds in the ashtray
And coke on the blade
N-Y-C delivers that’s a guarantee
The only thing that keep the day from me
Photo: Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Live Nation