Upon first listen, it’s easy to classify the music of Rich Robinson. Much like the output of his band The Black Crowes, it’s rollicking roots rock with some Southern influences, a little folk and the occasional banjo melody that flirts with bluegrass. The more time you spend with the songs, however, elements of country and blues start bubbling up to the surface. It’s the very definition of Americana.
While traveling on a tour that brings him to Spokane on Wednesday, Robinson explained that he’s careful not to let the conventions of specific genres shackle him artistically: He goes into the studio, and what comes out is what goes on the record. Whatever influences might reveal themselves on a given track, it’s rock ’n’ roll through and through.
“I’ve always been real reticent to try and pigeonhole what we’ve done,” Robinson said, “because The Black Crowes have spent 25 years being pigeonholed. … ‘They sound like Zeppelin or the Stones or they’re Southern rock.’ And mainly that comes from people who’ve never listened to our records.”
Robinson founded the Crowes in Georgia with his brother Chris in the ’80s, and the band’s bluesy, swaggering rock ’n’ roll was hugely successful. Their first two albums, 1990’s “Shake Your Money Maker” and 1992’s “The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion,” cracked the Billboard Top 10 and were certified platinum. The Crowes haven’t been playing consistently since their heyday – following their last tour in 2013, they announced an indefinite hiatus – which only gives Robinson more time to craft his own material.
“The Ceaseless Sight” is Robinson’s third solo recording (following 2004’s “Paper” and 2011’s “Through a Crooked Sun”), and he describes it as his most liberated and confident record. Although it’s a glossy, polished album, Robinson’s musical methods are driven by spontaneity, an organic approach that allows his songs to develop in the studio.
“Normally when I go in (to the studio), I’ll have a full musical piece written pretty much, but they’re always subject to change,” he said. “But on this record, I had a verse or chorus, this or that, and I wanted to use the studio to write the record.”
Robinson produces and records his own music, a totally different process from recording with the Crowes. “There’s less baggage,” he said, “and it’s a little more fun.” Most of the time drummer Joe Magistro is the only other person in the studio, and he and Robinson feel their way around an unfinished melody or a particular guitar riff until they form a complete song.
“Instead of coming in with full songs, I just had skeletons of songs and tried to use the energy of the studio to influence the way the songs came out,” Robinson said. “Everything’s a process. It’s always growing, hopefully. I mean, that’s the point, to make something, to try and get it to a different level and push yourself.”