So this is what Kate Hudson saw when the rest of us had Robinson pegged as the reincarnation of the boozing, hard-loving Steve Marriott. All that time, he was writing derivative, drippy love songs to his wife, wooing her with titles like "Safe in the Arms of Love," "Could You Really Love Me?" and the groan-inducing "Katie Dear."
In fairness, even though New Earth Mud is sappy and plunders from artists better than Robinson will ever be, at least he chooses his influences tastefully. "Untangle My Mind" is ripped off from Van Morrison's Astral Weeks phase, right down to its twisty sax, standup bass and dreamy, stream-of-consciousness lyrics. "Fables" seems cut from Sweet Baby James' cloth, and "Sunday Sound" could pass for early Dead circa American Beauty.
Obviously Robinson is committed to his jeans-and-work-shirt, mostly unplugged, we-just-stumbled-into-the-studio ethic. The accompanying DVD reveals recent, standard-issue grainy clips of the artist in the studio and on stage, hunched over his guitar and looking disconcertingly like a bedraggled Kenny Loggins.
Clocking in at an hour, the album's intermittent charms are spread too thin. But wallowing in Robinson's philosophical grime ultimately feels inspirational. And since when was originality a Crowes forte?
Chris Robinson plays the Variety Playhouse Tues., Nov. 26.