It does no disservice to The Chris Robinson Brotherhood to describe their latest album as a transitional work. Recorded in the process of shifting personnel, the eight tracks that comprise Anyway You Love, We Know How You Feel sound like sonic outlines (similar to the sketches on the album artwork) designed for more extensive elaboration on stage during live performances. As such, the impact of this new CRB music, despite its clear virtues, may be stunted to some listeners, in particular those who have followed the band from its inception.
The Chris Robinson Brotherhood inaugurated their recording career in remarkable fashion by released two equally stellar albums, Big Moon Ritual & The Magic Door in the same year of 2012, but 2014’s Phosphorescent Harvest, wasn’t quite so potent and Anyway You Love We Know How You Feel, resides at a similar level. Recorded as CRB was in the process of personnel shifts that saw Jeff Hill join as bass player in 2016 (subsequent to these sessions and Tony Leone’s assumption of the drummer’s role some months prior), Anyway nevertheless retains and effectively conveys the Brotherhood’s spacey musical personality.
Otherwise, the band wouldn’t traverse back and forth between funky syncopation and airy flight on “Narcissus soaking Wet.” Guitarist Neal Casal and keyboardist Adam MacDougall maintain equal and proportionate prominence on “Forever As the Moon,” the fluidity of playing no doubt influenced by the Pacific ocean-side environs in which CRB produced this album by themselves.
As the album moves into “Ain’t It Hard but Fair,” it becomes clear Robinson and Co. opted for somewhat more condensed tracks here than those that populated their first two records, both of which sound more of of a piece at five to fifteen minutes longer in total duration. Near the midpoint of this album, the cryptically-titled “Give Us Back Our Eleven Days” is a free-flowing piece that acts as a conduit to “Some Garden’s Green: ” more such intervals, as separate pieces or extended arrangements of the original material, would add depth to this record.
The aforementioned quasi-instrumental flows in stark contrast to the modified hard shuffle that is “Leave My Guitar Alone.” Casal takes one of his few notable solos here, reaffirming his understated instrumental presence in the band, but also begging the question if he assumed bass duties during the course of these sessions.Whether or not the long and winding strains of pedal steel on “California Hymn” are also Casal’s work, they impart an earthy texture that not only benefits this track, but, as the album’s conclusion, the other seven that precede it on Anyway You Love, We Know How You Feel.