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art theplaceFor all the naysayers, rock-n-roll is alive and kicking — especially in the hands of Rich Robinson.

Guitarist and founding member of The Black Crowes, he has circled the globe for the last 25 years, spreading the mighty word of six-strings gone electric. With the Crowes representing the musical crossroads of Led Zeppelin, The Allman Brothers and The Band, Robinson is a beacon of light in a modern music industry, where real musicians seem to fall by the wayside in favor of pop idols and instant gratification from a guy onstage hitting buttons on a laptop.

And as the Crowes slide into the upper echelon of rock royalty, Robinson himself has mounted a successful solo career. Though his debut release “Paper” emerged in 2004, it was “Through a Crooked Sun” (2011) that truly showcased his talents, where each melody stood on its own. 

“Through a Crooked Sun” was a breakthrough record for Robinson, who looked at the album as a closure of sorts in his life, where all the baggage of the past was put to song, and finally put to rest. With “Through a Crooked Sun” representing a humbled purpose and clarity, Robinson’s latest release, “The Ceaseless Sight” (2014), is a jubilant call for celebration.

The Smoky Mountain News caught up with Robinson recently as he geared up for another solo tour. He discussed his new sense of self, how important having his own band is, and why rock-n-roll is more aggressive and rebellious than ever.

Smoky Mountain News: As you get older, do you look forward to your solo project, where you can do your own recording and touring?

Rich Robinson: Yeah, I think so. The Crowes are the Crowes and it is what it is. We go out there and play these songs, and its fun for us, and it brings people joy. But doing this [solo project] brings me joy, being able to bring my music into a new context, and really get in there and change and shift.

SMN: Your last record has a real humbled nature to it, where the new album has this sense of celebration to it.

RR: Yeah. It’s figuring out how to let go of all of your shit and move forward, and hopefully that’s how it comes across — that’s what was meant for this record. It’s about looking forward, moving into the future and letting go.

SMN: Is that sense of clarity being applied to your craft?

RR: I feel more free with what I do. With this record, we went into the studio without so many set things. Let’s just go in and make a record, go in and do this. I have a couple parts for a song and lets take it in and see what happens, let the energy of the studio take over. 

SMN: With the current popularity of EDM (electronic dance music), what do you think about an audience that is focused more on gimmicks than on real musicianship?

RR: It doesn’t worry me — kids are going to like what they like. You can’t force anyone to like something. The bummer is that they’re missing out on something that is far more authentic and sincere. For me, and this is just my opinion, these people get up there and take other people’s music and speed it up or slow it down and add really shitty beats and bad lighting to it.

SMN: And the audience can lose that sense of musicianship, where the beauty of live performance is patience and tension as you watch a band jam out.

RR: There’s no such thing as musicianship [with EDM]. There was this DJ playing after a show recently and I’m like, “This is what you’ve chosen to do?” By quantizing the beats per minute, it’s just becoming mathematical and there’s no ebb and flow. They’re not picking any deep songs, and even if they did they’d mess it up by putting some shit over it. You’re not exposing anyone to anything greater than yourself. It’s just really the lowest common denominator. In some ways, I think rock and roll is becoming rebellious again. That getting up there and playing a loud guitar is offensive again. It’s really interesting to see that the most rebellious music, which was rock and roll on a worldwide scale, when that music came out it created a huge shift, then it became bought out and “Who cares?” and was in kid’s shows and in commercials, and it now has slid into this niche market where nobody really gets it but “Who cares?” But, there are some rock and roll bands out there, like Rival Sons and Blackberry Smoke, and it is coming back and it is rebellious again.

Editor’s Note: The Rich Robinson Band will perform on Sunday, Aug. 10, at the Asheville Music Hall. Prophet Omega and Hollis Brown will open. Showtime is 9 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 day of show. Ages 21 and over only.



Hot picks

1: Prog-rockers Porch 40 will perform at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 15 at Bridge Park in Sylva.

2: The Maggie Valley Summer Rally will be Aug. 15-17 at the Maggie Valley Festival Grounds.

3: Americana/bluegrass act Mangus Colorado will perform at 6 p.m. Aug. 16 at Kelsey-Hutchinson Park in Highlands.

4: A street dance will be held from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Aug. 8 in downtown Waynesville.

5: Gypsy-jazz band Resonant Rogues will perform at 8 p.m. Aug. 16 at Nantahala Brewing in Bryson City.

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