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For about 20 minutes, my day had been moving swimmingly.

I woke up extra early, around 5:30 a.m. or so, and took a little walk
down to the store to pick up orange juice for myself. The cool, unsettled
Sept. 8, 2006
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air and the half-light sky felt perfect as I trotted along in running pants and a t-shirt.

When I got back inside, I poured myself a glass, sat down at my laptop, and started rifling through emails and
messages left while I puttered away in dreamland. And my buddy Keelz had this one waiting for me:

“Oh for fuck’s sake!

The gist of that story, as you may have gathered, is that not even 24 hours before the Black Crowes’ fall tour
Marc Ford has packed up his guitar and left the Black
Crowes again. Below, listen to the Crowes' cover of Neil
Young's "L.A." with Marc on lead vocals from their show in
Springfield, Mass., in 2005.
kicked off, the band announced that Marc Ford
had left the band. But, more importantly, it was
mere hours after I had decided to pick up tickets
for their upcoming show in Providence. I had
even convinced my buddy
Cooch to go with me.

Now, this news follows the departure of
keyboardist Ed Harsch for “health reasons,” and
while we’re at it, Kate Hudson leaving lead
singer Chris Robinson for, reportedly, Owen
Wilson. All in all, not a good three-week stretch
for the band.

But, enough about them. This is about me. And I
am pissed.
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from one night to the next. After a 3-year hiatus, the band played everywhere that would have them from March
through December in ’05, and then picked up right where they left off in 2006.

The Crowes without Marc Ford isn’t necessarily new, though. Ford left the band shortly before their 1998 tour in
advance of
By Your Side (reportedly during a substance abuse episode), and through 2001 Audley Freed
manned the position. Freed did a very good job, though the afro-ed guitar wiz was playing in a very different band.
This was a period where the Crowes stepped back from swirling setlists and jams and into being a tight, punchy
rock lineup.

And it worked. In 2000 they hooked up with Jimmy Page for an excellent North American tour, and the lineup
recorded the under-appreciated gem
Lions. But the band imploded following the 2001 tour, and members went
their separate ways in the years that followed.

When the hiatus ended in March 2005, Ford was back in the band, and a new, invigorated Black Crowes sought
to reclaim their status in the rock n’ roll world. This version of the band was still as tight as the 2000 group, but
the sense of adventure, the dramatic and the unexplored had returned. Rich Robinson and Ford sounded
incredible together; they played right in and out of each other, telepathically moving where the other hadn’t and
pushing the band forward at every step. Chris Robinson sounded great, drummer Steve Gorman pounded away
and drove the band, bass player Sven Pipen kept the groove rolling, and Harsch seasoned the jams with his
trademark keys and Hammond B3.

In short, they rocked.

To hear last week that Harsch was taking an extended break was disappointing, but bands have moved on
without their keyboard player before, even those with one as ingrained as Ed had been with these guys. A
bummer, but not the end of the world.

So, after not catching them in Mansfield or Hampton Beach earlier this year, I decided, 5 days before their show,
to see if I couldn’t catch them this time. Had I known that Ford was heading for the door, I don’t know if I would’ve
still gone.

It cannot be understated how talented a guitarist Marc Ford is. His tone and style is so easy going yet fiery that he
can, while lurking in the shadows, channel Jerry Garcia, Ronnie Wood, Mark Knopfler and Duane Allman all at
once. With Ford, the Crowes are undeniably better. The version of the Black Crowes that toured through 2005 will
go down as the best lineup of an increasingly shifting band, hands down.

But Ford’s gone again. And I’m stuck with tickets for their Sept. 12 show.

With Paul Stacey filling in on guitar, I don’t expect more than a standard show. “Thorn in my Pride,” “Remedy,”
“Jealous Again” and some others sprinkled over two hours (not three, as they had been playing), and that’s it.

I don’t know who’s at fault over this, by the way. Maybe Ford grew pissy and quit. Maybe someone forced him out.
Maybe it was a combination. In all honesty, it doesn’t really matter to me how he left; all I care about is the end

The Black Crowes are left to honor the dates of their fall tour now, and if they want to salvage this at all, it has to
be absolutely great. Nothing short, nothing less, just great.

If it’s not, they’ll lose more than just fans and paying customers. They’ll lose everything they've worked to rebuild
in the past two years.
* * *
As a music fan, by all accounts I’m a ridiculous
person. To illustrate, after ordering tickets online
yesterday afternoon (about 18 hours before
writing this), I popped in a bootleg of their 2005
show in Providence to get myself in the mood.
After that, their
Freak N’ Roll … Into The Fog DVD
found its way into my player as I went about my
business during the day.

You see, I get excited when I learn I’m going to
catch a band I love. And the reincarnated version
of the Black Crowes has been nothing but stellar
(as documented
here and here). With Ford back
in the lead guitar slot, the Crowes had been
reborn as a swaggering pillar of rock, carrying
the mantle from the Rolling Stones to the
Grateful Dead to the Faces and into the new
millennium. Their shows were long and exciting
adventures into the unknown. They got better