Robinson's first solo recording, "The Red Road," appeared on the soundtrack to the 2002 Goldie Hawn film The Banger Sisters, confirming the singer's turn into softer material. A full-length debut, New Earth Mud, appeared in October and garnered very positive critical reviews. Written and produced with Paul Stacey and featuring collaborations with ex-Crowes Marc Ford and Eddie Harsch, the album allowed Robinson to hit the road as a headlining act. The band itself became known as New Earth Mud and became known for playing remarkably inspired sets across the United States.
New Earth Mud toured well into 2003, not only as a headliner but sharing the bill with such acts as Elvis Costello, Gov't Mule and The String Cheese Incident. During the later portion of the tour, the band introduced several new songs into their set and built up quite an anticipation for their second release. Robinson headed into the studio after the tour concluded, again with Paul Stacey as co-songwriter and producer. The end result was This Magnificent Distance, released in June 2004. The album was a bigger success than its predecessor and showcased more of a "full band" sound.
Robinson parted ways with Paul Stacey and the rest of his band in early 2004, the reason for which remains unknown. In a very cryptic post on his official message board, Robinson said farewell to his original line-up and welcomed a new one, which featured ex-Crowes member Audley Freed on guitar and studio virtuoso George Reiff on bass. The band toured in support of This Magnificent Distance through the Summer of 2004, again gaining more critical and commercial attention for themselves. Another tour was planned for the fall of 2004 but was suddenly and inexplicably scrapped. Robinson instead remained out of the public eye aside from three appearances with Phil Lesh and Friends at the Warfield Theater in San Francisco (December 2004).
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