Chris Robinson has titled his first solo record New Earth Mud. Mmm. Evocative, yet disappointing. We much prefer its far-superior working title, As You Listen to This, I'm Having Sex With Kate Hudson.
With the blues-hawking Black Crowes on indefinite hiatus, the supermodel-thin frontman has ditched the Robert Plant sex-bomb shtick and perhaps permanently evicted the armadillo from his trousers. New Earth Mud finds our hero reborn as Lovey-Dovey Singer-Songwriter Man, armed with an hour's worth of tender '70s soft-rockers (mostly ballads) he probably wrote while sitting in the back of study hall, staring at the back of his beloved's neck, as "Katie Dear" (yeah, that's a song title) yawned adorably in the front row.
It's really mushy.
The "beating wings of angels send stars to and fro."
Chicks dance "Barefoot by the Cherry Tree."
"Songs of laughter" rise up "just like the bluebird taking flight."
Robinson assures us that "as long as we're together, we're safe in the arms of love."
When the arms of love prove insufficient, "I will build a house for us to stay."
Furthermore, "You are my lady."
And Katie Dear "Smiles like heaven/Laying by my side," perhaps because Robinson has entreated her to "let your diamond rivers flow."
Just not on the Italian leather sofa, Katie Dear.
It's really mushy.
"Mushy," sniffs Robinson, ringing in from a tour stop in Minneapolis. "Uh, no, I don't really think that's a proper adjective to describe it, but you can say whatever you want."
"For my first foray into something other than the Crowes, I wanted to make something understated," he explains. "I wanted something that was intimate, something purely coming from an open emotional place. I think that's something truly lacking in music. People become obsessed with watering down everything they wanna say and putting on the emperor's new clothes to be something they're not."
Ah, Chris, but the bluebirds! The diamond rivers! The beating wings of angels!
"Yeah, but that's what I mean," he says. "That's what it is. People feel that way. I feel that way. I don't write science fiction, you know what I mean?"
Nevertheless, much of New Earth Mud may unspool like a David Cronenberg flick for loyal Crowes fans looking to robustly shake their moneymakers. A few hippie funk motherships touch down, but the wistful, sighing ballads -- "Silver Car," "Untangle My Mind," the actually quite lovely "Katie Dear" -- fully dominate. Robinson will endure the hoots and guffaws and whip-crack sound effects of his drunken poker buddies for years to come.
But as Robinson quickly points out, "It's just one album. [With the Crowes] I've made six albums and a live album of Zeppelin songs, of harder blues-based rock music. For the first group of songs that are all my compositions, to me, I think it was more important to do what I feel."
Crowes fans will delight to hear that Robinson may feel like boarding the Zeppelin again real soon. Though he did a few frail-dude-with-an-acoustic shows connected with Mud, he's hauling around a full band these days, and "It's full-tilt boogie." Newer material has crept into the set list, as well as covers of Dylan, Merle Haggard, Traffic, and Pink Floyd.
Boogie! Loose! Funky! Retro! Dude might as well get the Black Crowes back together!
"We don't really get along right now," Robinson says. "We don't really talk." (An especially sad fact, considering Chris's brother, Rich, is the Crowes' guitarist.) "I love my brother dearly. We really don't see eye to eye on a lot of things, but that's typical. I hope there's no ill feelings -- to be honest, there was really no dialogue. We just all went away."
"It just wore itself out," Robinson says. "You have to have everybody backing you up to be a good frontman. I was tired of trying to guess where everybody's heads and everybody's motivations were. And that place, that kinda gray area, doesn't help to bring the vibes, you know?"
Robinson has since acquired the vibes from outside sources. New Earth Mud chronicles a man reborn and revitalized, with Ms. Kate Hudson clearly the main entity responsible. Currently terrorizing dragged-along boyfriends worldwide in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, the perpetually sunny actress serves as both Robinson's muse and primary human-interest angle -- he's People magazine fodder now. Perhaps you recently saw Robinson bowling on MTV as part of some "Kate Hudson's video diary" thing.
Most sane people prefer to bowl in private. But the Entertainment Tonight hoo-hah doesn't much faze our hero.
"They don't take my picture," Robinson says. "I'm the guy with the beard next to the hot blonde. That's fine. That's my wife's life. I support her, and I'm there for her. As long as she's happy and she feels safe, and as long as everything's going her way, I'm happy."
The paparazzi are happy too. Screw 'em. "Obviously, when you're married to somebody like my wife, people are gonna wanna know about it," Robinson says. "But it doesn't really get in the way of anything for me. I don't understand how much there is to say, except that we're two happily [giggles] married people. We've been married over two years now. You're only important to people when you get divorced."
If you picked the Hudson/ Robinson pairing in your Celebrity Split Pool, you're probably gonna get your clock cleaned. No divorce in sight -- the bluebirds are singing, the diamond rivers flowing. Meanwhile, Robinson's turn as Lovey-Dovey Singer-Songwriter Man has reenergized him.
"It hearkens back to a lot of motivations I had when I was much younger -- the things that actually didn't change too much for me through the course of the Crowes' career," he says. "I see music as this fertile place to be creative. I see it as a place to discuss my feelings and my experiences through my lyrics and through music, and to share that with a group of musicians, to communicate those things. Hopefully, everyone I'm singing to has had these experiences -- the melancholy and the joyous."
These days, it's all joyous for Robinson. He can't hear the howling celebrity hounds or the moaning Black Crowes obsessives. The beating wings of angels have drowned it all out.