The Island Today: Black Crowes fly again in new band

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Rock band The Magpie Salute brings together Rich Robinson, co-founding member of the The Black Crowes, where he shined in his role as primary writer, guitarist, and vocalist, as well as two former Black Crowes bandmates, guitarist Marc Ford and bassist Sven Pipien, and members of Robinson’s own band, drummer Joe Magistro, keyboardist Matt Slocum, and guitarist Nico Bereciartua.

In addition, Robinson has gathered a fine cast of vocalists, including lead singer John Hogg (Hookah Brown, Moke), former Crowes singer Charity White, and two additional background singers, Adrien Reju and Katrine Ottosen.

The Magpie Salute marks the reunion of the Robinson and Ford guitar team, which ended back in 1997 when Ford left The Black Crowes.

Reflecting on his past, Robinson says, “I feel Marc and I have a deep musical connection… As I get older, I realize what a gift it is to play with people with whom you share that language of music.”

Reiterating Robinson’s point about musical rapport, Fort added, “It’s one of those things that was there before we met. Musically, we were already family.”

Asked about The Magpie Salute’s artistic vision and musical approach, Robinson said, “I, and everyone involved, love playing music. Not only on our own, in The Crowes and in my band, but playing music in general. We want to make music again together with a fresh perspective. To present this music I wrote in a different light with these amazing players is going to be really special to me.”

To create this new sound, Robinson and his ensemble have called upon their collective influences, from R&B, country and spirituals, to artists such as Sly Stone, Neil Young, and The Small Faces — a vast musical landscape which, at its core, is pure rock and roll.

“It’s also deeper than that,” Robinson went on to say. “It’s freedom, it’s love, it’s loss, it’s pure joy. It’s misery, it’s simultaneously arrogance and vulnerability. It is life.”

Robinson explains how the band members’ past experiences connect to the band’s moniker, The Magpie Salute.

The term references a British superstition about the imperative to salute a magpie anytime you see one in order to ward off negativity, or to have a good day; it is like saying, I am unarmed or I come in peace.

Robinson says, “The magpie falls within the crow umbrella of species, figuratively and literally. Magpies can be black and white, which for me represents the dark and the light. The way to salute a magpie is to say, ‘Good morning, captain.’ I felt this had too many coincidences to ignore.”

“This touches on many aspects of my life and experiences,” he added.

The band’s genesis began in Woodstock at Applehead Studios where Robinson had recorded his last three albums.

Pipien had been playing with him on his current tour and Robinson thought it might be a bit of fun to invite Ford, as well as Eddie Harsch from the original Crowes lineup, to join.

“It turned out to be a cool, cathartic and inspirational experience for all of us. We had a strong musical connection from that band,” said Robinson.

The fact that the former Crowes’ members had traveled the world together and shared a life’s worth of family experiences drew them back to one another.

They found themselves bonded, Robinson said, “by a lot of far-out experiences, performing with our heroes, emotional ups and downs, all wrapped up in a very unique life experience, which is the thread that has always kept the connection together.”

Harsch will be sorely missed from the new band’s lineup: he passed away in November of 2016, but he too was a part of the energy that lead to The Magpie Salute.

Speaking on his connection with Harsch, both musically and emotionally, Robinson said, “It’s a very intimate and abstract way to communicate, but when you have that with someone it is a true creative gift. Eddie was a brilliant musician. He was funny as hell. He was a good person with a great heart. I’ll miss him dearly.”

The Magpie Salute intends to perform the songs and the unique improvisational flights that characterized The Black Crowes’ body of work.

“That’s what we do when we get together,” said Ford, who adds that the vocals will obviously be different, but that in turn will lead to a huge range of possibility and other places to go with different singers.

“The bottom line for me,” said Ford, “is that we love playing together; we have respect for what we have done together and for all the people who want to hear it.”

According to Robinson, the set list for their upcoming NYC performances will vary from show to show, keeping the music fresh for the musicians and the audience.

“We will continue in the long line of digging deep into my old Crowes’ catalogue, some great covers, some we’ve done before, some we have never played, songs from my solo records and some of Marc’s songs off of his new record.”

Ford believes that this variety in set list “keeps everything interesting to us” and asks, “If we weren’t into it, how could the listeners be?”

Clearly, The Magpie Salute intends to mix it up, breathing new life into musical bonds rooted in tradition and the universal language of rock and roll.

The band’s upcoming Long Island performance will take place at The Paramount in Huntington on Sunday, Aug. 13 at 8 p.m.

The Paramount is located at 370 New York Ave. in Huntington.

For tickets and more information, go to www.paramountny.com.

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