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The Black Crowes are brothers in arms once again

Rich (left) and Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes.
Rich (left) and Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes.Josh Cleuse

In photographs, the Black Crowes’ Chris Robinson usually looks taller than his brother Rich.

“He’s got me by half an inch,” claims Rich.

It’s the reflexive defense of the one who’ll always be the younger brother. As the band’s guitarist and primary songwriter, Rich Robinson is arguably the heart and soul of the Black Crowes, the Southern rock band that had a dominant run in the early 1990s, playing a funkier brand of neo-classic rock than the grunge bands of the day.

But Robinson has always stood in the shadow of his brother. Chris Robinson is a charismatic rock ‘n’ roll frontman with a big personality and a seemingly insatiable wild streak. Over the years they’ve fought like, well, brothers, often quite publicly. They’ve taken extended breaks from each other, and the bitter rift that led to the band’s breakup in 2015 seemed like it could be the end.


Last fall, however, the Robinsons made a surprise announcement confirming the latest Black Crowes reunion, an upcoming summer tour to mark the 30th anniversary of the band’s multi-platinum debut, “Shake Your Money Maker.” The ambitious, months-long outing will include stops at the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion in Gilford on July 21 and the Xfinity Center in Mansfield on the following night.

As a run-up, the Robinsons have just revealed a handful of intimate, two-man acoustic club dates, including one at the Brighton Music Hall on Wednesday. The show, billed as Brothers of a Feather, sold out almost immediately.

“For me it’s getting back to the root of the song,” says Rich Robinson, on the phone from his home outside Nashville. “It’s kind of cool for Chris and I to go out and play these songs the way they were written. I always thought if the song can hold up in its most basic form like that, then it’s a great song.”


Boston audiences have always been “really warm” for the Black Crowes over the years, Robinson says. The band got an early boost by opening for Aerosmith, and they recorded their 2002 live album during a two-night-run at the Orpheum Theatre.

As kids growing up in Atlanta, they had their ups and downs, he says.

“I would always be delegated to be, like, the sidekick in all the games,” he says with a laugh. “If it was the Wild Wild West, he’d be like, ‘I’ll be the cool guy, and you be Bernie, the quiet accountant,’ or whatever.” It was a “normal” childhood, he says.

When the music bug bit them as rising teenagers, they settled more deeply into their respective roles.

“Chris was definitely more of an expeditionary, musically speaking,” Robinson says. “He’d go seek out tons of stuff, and I would sift through what he brought home. The records that really spoke to me, I would learn everything, all the instrumentation.”

In recent years Chris Robinson has hosted a Sirius XM radio program on the service’s jam-band station. “Gurus Galore” gave him an outlet to explore his passion for outre rock music. He also formed a band of his own, which he archly called the Chris Robinson Brotherhood.

Rich Robinson, meanwhile, continued his solo career, toured for a time with Bad Company, and formed a band called the Magpie Salute with some former members of the Black Crowes.


The latest incarnation of the Black Crowes features an all-new cast of supporting musicians: guitarist Isaiah Mitchell of the psychedelic San Diego band Earthless, keyboardist Joel Robinow, drummer Raj Ojha of Oakland’s Once and Future Band, and Foxborough native Tim Lefebvre, who has played bass in the Tedeschi Trucks Band and, as an in-demand session musician, contributed to David Bowie’s final album, “Blackstar.”

Whatever the brothers’ differences, they never stopped sharing a common language rooted in musical references, Robinson says.

“We’ve always appreciated similar things, no matter what the package was,” he says. “There has to be an authenticity, a certain mentality, a tonal quality, these kinds of things. Any musician that comes in for us, if they’re able to have the same palette to choose from and know what we’re talking about, that really is the key. Chris and I have always had that.”

Over the years the Robinsons have churned through more than a dozen bandmates. The longest-lasting, drummer Steve Gorman, recently wrote a memoir of his time in the band called “Hard to Handle,” which takes its name from the Otis Redding song that helped launch the Black Crowes’ career. Published in September, the book recounts the near-constant infighting that amounted to the brothers’ mutual self-sabotage. At one point it got so bad, Gorman claims, that they drove away Jimmy Page, the Led Zeppelin legend who had joined the band for select dates.

“I wanted to kill both of them,” Gorman writes.

These days, the Robinson brothers seem sincere about their effort to put the bad blood behind them. At 53, Chris Robinson recently went through his third divorce; he has expressed remorse about his past behavior.


Rich Robinson, now 50, recently moved from his longtime home in Connecticut to the Nashville area to be near his aging mother. She moved to her native Tennessee a few years ago, after the death of the Robinsons’ father, Stan, a garment salesman who had a minor hit as a young musician during the 1950s with “Boom-a-Dip-Dip.”

In two kickoff shows in November — one at New York’s Bowery Ballroom and the other at the Troubadour in West Hollywood — the Black Crowes played their debut album in its entirety, then encored with a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It).”

For a band that has always represented — for better and for worse — the kind of excesses that once defined classic rock, that seems like an apt choice of cover.

“Absolutely,” says Robinson.

E-mail James Sullivan at jamesgsullivan@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @sullivanjames.


At the Xfinity Center, Mansfield, July 22 at 8 p.m. Tickets starting at $29, www.livenation.com