In Paris 2002, in a studio covered in vines with a winding staircase in front and a small old wooden door beside it, a slender man with a long beard and long brown flowing hair was putting together a blues rock masterpiece: New Earth Mud by Chris Robinson.
It is an album that has never been given its deserved credit.
The psychedelic and calming vibes of New Mud Earth went unnoticed when it was released. During the 2000s this album was out of the ordinary. It might have been more at home in the seventies or early eighties, and would have had a different reception. The album encompasses blues, soul, funk, rock, and ballads, which flow through every song leaving the listener with pleasant surprises. The sudden changes in styles and eccentric solos compliment and layer the music. The different elements from families of instruments on the album including synthesizers, multiple organs, slide guitars, baritone guitars, mandolins, and saxophones give depth and feeling, as well as soul to New Mud Earth. The song, “Could You Really Love Me,” has an organ and synthesizer break using a type of instrument called a minimoog and a clavinet and more. With all of these instruments playing at the same time, it seems messy and overwhelming but it builds up and all comes together in an uplifting ending. The effect of the variety and unusualness of the instruments creates a psychedelic, powerful feeling.
Robinson grew up in Atlanta, Georgia and was heavily influenced by The Faces and The Rolling Stones. He was surrounded by music and even his family members were musicians. His father had a minor Billboard-charted record titled “Boom-A-Dip-Dip.” Tons of influential and iconic music came out of Atlanta such as John Mayer, Curly Weaver, and “Blind Willie” McTell. Some other artists Robinson was inspired by are folk singer Judee Sill, influential blues singer Arthur Crudup, and Albert Collins who is one of the most famous blues guitarists and singers of all time. These influences can be heard on New Earth Mud. For example, “Barefoot By the Cherry Tree” is very folk-ish and sounds like it was inspired by Judee Sill because of its light acoustic guitar, mandolin, and beautiful piano in the background. The variety of instruments and generic influences make this album unique and a masterpiece. It pulls together inspiration from different artists yet, it still shows Robinson’s own sound.
The album encompases many styles and moods. There are chill tracks with light acoustic guitar for when you are feeling relaxed or sleepy and there are tracks with heavy blues guitar licks that make you bang your head and feel like a badass. If you just wanna dance there are funky tracks that are impossible not to tap your feet to and the songs are so soulful they make you want to sing out loud for everyone to hear. The album is distinct from the work Robinson produced with his previous band, the Black Crowes, but still has the same feel to it. It is full of funk, soul, blues etc and has some heartfelt tracks like good ol’ rock as well. There are songs for any time of the day and any mood you’re feeling.
All the songs were written by Chris Robinson, so it really shows the amount of musicianship he has. Before he went solo, Robinson had a lot of success with the Black Crowes, whose best selling album Shake Your Money Maker sold over 5 million copies. They had hit songs like “She Talks To Angels,” “Jealous Again,” and “Remedy.” But there was a hiatus from 2002 to 2005. Between these years the brothers Chris and Rich both released albums. Obviously Chris released New Earth Mud, but he also released another album called This Magnificent Distance. Rich formed a band called Hookah Brown and released the album entitled Paper.
The whole album is mixed and mastered to bring out the best of every complex yet well-organized composition. The power and soul behind Chris’ voice will give you chills and the multicolored, mind-bending elements of the album take you to another world. Take a listen for yourself. The best way to listen to a dense and atmospheric album like this is alone with no distractions and just try get lost in the layered, multi-instrumental tracks. You feel as if you’re a part of the album.
Image credit: Flickr