It's interesting to see a band years into to their career still making something new out of old material - be it live or on the typical "best of" album. Many artists find gold in reworking their songs, be it creative exercise or contract fulfillment. John Mellencamp did well with Rough Harvest, turning old songs into new ones. The Black Crowes have done something similar. Having already released a "greatest hits" album a few years back the band has released Croweology, a collection of largely acoustic and gently reworked versions of the band's staples.
Twenty years on in their career, The Black Crowes laid down enough tracks to support a double album - some expected and some surprises. Taking a cue from last year's ...Until the Freeze the band recorded these quick and live. The result puts forth a band, once derided as a throwback to the seventies, as a multifaceted and genre shifting one. Croweology is proof that the band's songs are like clothing that can be re-stitched and worn again and again. The songs here are generally remade with different dressings, a little harmonica here, the crunch of guitar removed there.
The real gems are "Morning Song" a Sunday church reworking of a song that was written that way in the first place, just heavier on guitar. It's the rave-up at the end, its blast of energy that gives the original version a run for its money, replacing bombast with spare playing that reaches the same ceiling. "Sister Luck" feels like a totally different song than on 1990's Shake Your Money Maker and 1992's "Bad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbye" is wonderful, sounding like a ghost form the past. Some tracks that were born in acoustic beginnings ("Good Friday", "Downtown Money Waster") seem familiar yet still shine. "Girl from a Pawnshop" sounds more melancholic, more deliberate now, but loses the huge wall of sound. "Wiser Time," always a magical number, rolls on for nine minutes, still resonating as it did in 1995, paired with the equally lengthy "Ballad in Urgency."
The only real disappointment is that, as the band currently tours for the last time before taking a lengthy hiatus, is that they haven't released a collection of songs that's never seen the light of day. "She" and "Cold Blue Smile" are the only evidence here of it. The band apparently has a lot of original material stored, hopefully it will see release during the band's hiatus. Croweology doesn't sound like closure, more like a hint of what's could come down the road.