IF YOU GO
What: The Black Crowes, in concert.
When: 8:30 p.m. Dec. 6.
Where: Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 S.W. Broadway, Portland.
Cost: $46.50 to $68.50.
Information: 800-273-1530 or portland5.com.
The Black Crowes have been in the midst of a second reunion since the start of this year. The last time the group reconvened, it produced two studio albums and multiple live releases.
Singer Chris Robinson hopes this third time around will result in new music. But he isn't making any promises, noting, in fact, that he plans to be busy next year with his solo group, the Chris Robinson Band, which already has a new album finished and ready for release.
"We don't have any plans past December," Robinson said in a recent teleconference interview. "It's just typical Black Crowes world. So we (the Black Crowes) won't be on the road next year or anything. But that hopefully will open a window for us during a busy CRB (the Chris Robinson Band) schedule to hopefully get to some new music."
The fact that this year's touring has yet to turn into concrete plans to enter a recording studio doesn't mean this latest reunion has been anything less that a success, Robinson said.
"We're still just kind of scratching our heads wondering why everyone's getting along so well," Robinson said.
As that last comment suggests, the Black Crowes have had a good share of conflict over a career that dates back to the late 1980s, when Robinson, his brother, guitarist Rich, and drummer Steve Gorman formed the group.
Following in the grand tradition of other battling rock and roll brothers (such as Phil and Don Everly of the Everly Brothers and Ray and Dave Davies of the Kinks), Chris and Rich Robinson have been famous for butting heads over the years.
The numerous personnel changes that have occurred are another sign that life in the Black Crowes has been less than harmonious at times.
Today's lineup includes the group's seventh guitarist, Jackie Greene, third bassist, Sven Pipien (who has been in and out of the lineup a couple of times) and third keyboardist, Adam MacDougall, to go with the Robinson brothers and Gorman.
At this point, the quality of the Black Crowes experience drives when and for how long the band reconvenes.
"When we decided to take a hiatus three years ago, part of the mentality of that was to make a kind of an adult reasonable decision about our lives," Robinson said. "We were not in a very good place as people or friends or family or band mates or whatever. And that's what happens.
"So yes, I mean, I kind of see the future of the Black Crowes as kind of being we do it when we feel like doing it," he said. "And it's something that I don't think that maybe in your youth and especially in the '90s, when you're selling millions and millions and millions of records and you're responsible for all this income and intrigue to like these labels and corporations and stuff that'll really put a wrench in the works. And on some levels, you become a slave to that kind of system or routine, whether you know it or not."
In the first phase of its career, success certainly was a big part of the Black Crowes story. The group enjoyed out-of-the-box success with its 1990 debut album, which went triple platinum behind four hit singles.
The 1992 second album, "The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion," was another huge hit, spawning four No. 1 rock singles.
The band's level of success dipped after that, but the albums "Amorica," "Three Snakes and One Charm,' "By Your Side" and "Lions," still enjoyed decent sales. But by the time of "Lions," the group had been through several lineup changes, had scrapped a pair of albums, and having had its share of tensions and burnout, decided to go on hiatus.
The band returned in 2005 and this second phase produced two fine studio albums, "Warpaint" and "Before the Frost … Until the Freeze," and four live releases, "Freak 'n' Roll into the Fog," "Warpaint Live," "Croweology" (an acoustic live CD) and the newly released "Wiser for the Time" (recorded on the 2010 tour), before the group took a second hiatus.
Although it remains to be seen if a new Black Crowes album will get made next year, it's clear that life in the band is much more smooth now than when the group went on hiatus in mid-2011.
And the Black Crowes are continuing a busy tour schedule, headlining shows through mid-December. Robinson said the band has played more than 100 different songs on tour so far this year, but regardless of what songs are in the set on a given night, the band will be trying to create an authentic rock and roll experience.
"I think the songs that we want to play and stuff, I have a feeling it'll kind of coalesce into…a real soulful roots-oriented cosmic thing," Robinson said. "I think you have to play to your strengths. And that's, I feel that's where the Black Crowes are."