If you listened to Paper, the first solo album by former Black Crowes guitarist Rich Robinson without knowing who it was, it'd be easy to peg that it's the work of a guitarist who has finally been given the chance to do whatever he wants on record. There are layers and layers of guitars on each cut, so much so that it's hard to tell exactly how many overdubs are on each track, and they're all pushed to the front of the mix. Even when there isn't a specific guitar solo, each guitar part is busy enough to show off the guitarist's considerable chops, and each tune has been written to give him plenty of room to roam. It's not like Rich Robinson was ever held back in the Black Crowes -- from their first album his playing was as much a part of their sound as his brother Chris' voice, but here he's allowed to indulge himself to a far greater extent than before, and he seizes it. If you're a guitar nut, that's not a bad thing, since Robinson is a good guitarist, but he would have benefited from a producer to reign him in a bit, or at least edit his performances so they pack a punch instead of just ramble on. He also would have benefited if he had hired a vocalist; he's written a couple of hooky, vaguely psychedelic choruses, but his voice is too thin to carry over the dense, murky layers of guitars. In short, it seems like the first solo album from a talented guitarist from a notable band -- some good riffs, some good hooks, some good playing, but it never gels, since the guitarist is having too much fun enjoying his freedom to figure out how to present it to a larger audience, even an audience of his diehard fans.
© Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo