“If you’re gonna play a song by the Black Crowes, you need to bring your A game,” says Blackberry Smoke’s Charlie Starr. “Those guys were one of the best rock & roll bands of the last 20 years. Whenever we do a Crowes song, I always think, ‘Well, we better play it right.'”
Last month, with a six-week tour alongside ZZ Top winding to a close and a brief, rare vacation looming on the horizon, Blackberry Smoke reached out to Rich Robinson — co-founder of the Black Crowes and, like Starr, a native of Cobb County, Georgia — about sharing the stage during the Telluride Blues and Brews Fest. Robinson accepted the offer. “Wiser Time,” a Seventies-worthy sprawl of cosmic country and heartland rock & roll from 1994’s Amorica, was chosen as the supergroup’s one-off duet, and Robinson joined the group at the Telluride festival on September 18th, hitting the stage with no rehearsal and little preparation.
“We just winged it,” Starr admits. “Everybody kind of knew it, and we mapped it out verbally beforehand. Like, ‘You solo here, I’ll solo there and then everyone solos together at the end.'”
In the video above, Robinson and Starr share guitar riffs and vocal harmonies throughout an extended version of “Wiser Time,” with smoke drifting across the stage and the San Juan Mountains looming in the background. It wasn’t the first time members of Blackberry Smoke and the Black Crowes joined forces — the two bands have a long, entwined history, with Crowes frontman Chris Robinson even supplying Blackberry Smoke with their name — but it still felt weighty, with one veteran of soulful, countryfied, Southern rock passing the torch to the next generation.
“What an honor,” says Starr. “We played ‘Wiser Time’ because it’s such a groove-oriented, almost Americana-type song, but all of the band’s music is so great. I’d venture to say that Rich is nowhere near being tired of playing those wonderful songs. People love ’em. And we are some of those people.”