CD review: The Magpie Salute soars like the Black Crowes

Magpie Salute
The Magpie Salute’s first album was released on June 9.

The Magpie Salute’s debut album “The Magpie Salute Salute The Magpie” is a thunderous statement that former Black Crowes members Rich Robinson, Marc Ford and Sven Pipien are ready to pick up where they left out.

The Black Crowes called it quits back in 2015 after a long and storied career of ball-busting, blues-infused rock that started in 1990 with its mega debut “Shake Your Moneymaker.” Decades of infighting and competing musical ideologies between guitarist Rich Robinson and his brother, vocalist Chris Robinson, led to Chris leaving the band and starting his own, the Grateful Dead-inspired Chris Robinson Brotherhood. It left Rich and Pipien gathering the pieces of their musical careers and trying to forge a new path.

The Magpie Salute is that new path, though it is traveling through territory that the former Crowes have flown before. The band features Robinson and Pipien working with former bandmates Marc Ford on guitar and Eddie Harsch on keyboards (Harsch sadly passed in November and this album marks his last musical recording), as well as new friends drummer Joe Magistro and guitarist Nico Bereciartua, vocalists John Hogg and Charity White (another former Crowes member) and background singers Adrien Reju and Katrine Ottosen.

What was supposed to be a casual gathering of musicians near Woodstock, New York, turned into a full-band affair that is now looking at a debut album and extensive worldwide tour. The album was recorded in front of a live studio audience at Applehead Recording and captures the cracking energy of this 10-piece behemoth as it starts to solidify its deep, rich rock and roll sound and discover itself.

If you asked Chris what his brother’s new band is, he’d tell you it is a “Black Crowes tribute band,” which is how he described it to Howard Stern on his radio show. Cynical viewpoint for sure, but taken at face value The Magpie Salute is paying tribute to the best of The Black Crowes and that is not a bad thing at all. Sonically, the band operates in the same soulful, rock and blues space, which isn’t too surprising considering the core of both bands are the same (the band even covers Crowes standouts “What Is Home” and “Wiser Time”). The group also benefits from the built-in chemistry formed during Crowes years that allows for the core to confidently add new musicians to the mix, and it informs the flow and cohesiveness of the outfit’s jams.

The Magpie Salute’s debut also could be read as a tribute to the wide musical influences present in the band. All the songs are covers, minus lead track “Omission,” and the band selected some choice cuts that included songs by War, Delaney and Bonnie and Pink Floyd. The varied palette allows the group to highlight its capability. Turns out that it is a lot.

The album is a thick, heady trip of rock bliss that feels organic and natural. This sound is succinctly captured on the soul-rock churn of “Comin’ Home,” where Ford and Robinson are back to their old ways weaving golden blues licks together amidst blossoming organ and gospel melodies. The live setting lets the band really flex its muscle and it really takes advantage of stretching out the jams to reach their potential, like on the clairvoyant, blues-as-jazz gem “Goin’ Down South” and Bob Marley’s “Time Will Tell,” which is transformed from gentle tune into a rejoicing sing-a-long of The Band’s persuasion.

“War Drums” is the most fulfilling jam on the record and probably the best instrumental you’ll hear for a while. It’s a blazing psych-funk groove that burns bright from the interplay of Harsch’s lively sweeps of keyboards and organs and the testimonial solos from Robinson, Ford and Bereciartua. The whole band is charging as hard as it can, like a bicyclist pumping as fast as they can through the downhill, and it sets a thrilling precedent for what the band can accomplish live.

However, the true potential of the band is in lead track “Omission.” It is the only song that is a Magpie original and features John Hogg’s powerhouse vocals soaring over a towering blues rock riff and muscular drumming from Magistro. It’s loud and proud rock and roll and is the first indication of where The Magpie Salute wants to take its music. “The Magpie Salute Salute The Magpie” is a powerful debut and is hopefully the first step in what will be a long and fulfilling journey.

-Garrett Bethmann

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2 Responses

  1. First listen is taking the paint off the walls. The take of “Wiser Time” is superior to the many boot leg runs I have the Crowes doing. “Coming Home” blisters and as noted Omission is an all out crushing tune. . . 90 % of the Crowes fans I’ve been in contact over the years always note that it was the Ford/ Rich Robinson collaboration that put the group on par with ANY band. Well here is more proof…….Hogg does a great job maintaining a position of strength but still staying behind the great playing of the boys………Can’t imagine a studio album from these guys being superior to this effort, but God do I wait with anticipation for that moment!

  2. Owning and constantly listening to over a terabyte of Crowes boots, I gotta say that the band is gelling in Magpie. They have come along better and better s the tour goes along. “Omission” is a great song and John is a great singer. However, every time I hear a performance of MS, I miss Chris Robinson a little bit more. As good as Hogg is (and that is DAMNED good), CR is so ingrained in every song that I can’t seem to get past it. It’s not John’s fault. There are few singers in rock history who could match Robinson’s sheer chill inducing vocal prowess. That said, buy this record and go see the shows when they come to your area. This is about as good as music gets these days.

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