Saturday, May 09, 2009

Allison Crowe's Road Less-Travelled: Timeless Music on Tour

It's been a few years since Nick Hornby, in a New York Times op-ed piece, "Rock of Ages", spoke of "that high-low fork in the road" asking: "Who has the nerve to pick up where Dickens or John Ford left off? ...who wants to make art that is committed and authentic and intelligent, but that sets out to include, rather than exclude?"

An answer is Allison Crowe, creator of such recordings as "Disease", "Skeletons and Spirits" and "Wedding Song" and interpretations of popular music from Leonard Cohen to Pearl Jam and the Loving Spoonful.

This week the Chicago Tribune newspaper named the "5 best versions of Cohen's 'Hallelujah' " and counter-culture blog MIX listed the top "non-shills" in the music business. Allison Crowe is the only artist on both lists. Being ranked alongside Leonard Cohen, John Cale, Jeff Buckley and kd lang for her transcendent, single/first-take, recording of "Hallelujah", and lining up with Ani DiFranco, Janis Ian, Trent Reznor, Radiohead and others for her integrity, is emblematic of Crowe's singular success.

She launched her own record label, Rubenesque Records Ltd., in 2003 and approaches music very differently to the industry standard of recent decades. The wholly independent vocalist and multi-instrumentalist shows you don't need to "play the game". You simply need to make great music. And you need to mean it.

"In a world of copycats and wannabes in the singer-songwriter field, Crowe is a true original and is playing in a league of her own", writes Tom Mureika. In this latest concert review penned for Westcoaster.ca, Mureika, a writer for AllMusicGuide, describes Crowe as an "astonishingly gifted artist" with "a dynamic stage presence - she is at once commanding and enrapturing." Saying: "Crowe is easily the most talented singer-songwriter to burst on the scene in quite some time... There were even times when her compositions came across like a modern day Carole King." Mureika concludes: "Her unique stylings, incredible range of delivery, songwriting chops and knack for interpreting cover tunes sets her apart from her peers".

AMG/Westcoaster.ca's Mureika is reporting on a sound heard coast-to-coast in Canada, where Crowe resides on, both, Atlantic and Pacific shores, and 'round the world live, on the internet and mp3 players everywhere, on Rogers, ATV, and CHUM television, the BBC, CBC radio and more.

From Canadian college radio station CFBX, where Crowe's newest of six CDs/albums, "Little Light" was top of general and specialty charts for weeks running this Spring, (since replaced on the Roots chart by the latest from Neko Case, 'Middle Cyclone'), to audiences numbering in the millions worldwide for her videos on YouTube, and song tracks on such social networking platforms as Jamendo and Last.fm to mainstream outlets iTunes and Amazon, Crowe's appeal bridges the iconoclastic and the populist.

UK audiences heard from Allison Crowe when she was a sensation at the John Lennon Northern Lights Festival in Durness, Scotland (crowned the "UK's Best New Festival' in early 2008). Crowe's performance in the Scottish Highlands, on-stage between Carol Ann Duffy, appointed Britain's Poet Laureate just this month, and Master of The Queen's Music, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, is the stuff of legend.

Recently, two prominent tributes to Leonard Cohen have featured her song contributions. During a triumphal Beatles Week 2008 concert series, BBC Radio 2 interviewed and recorded Allison Crowe in Liverpool performing "Hallelujah" for its documentary, "The Fourth, The Fifth, The Minor Fall", that explores the many facets of this Leonard Cohen creation. Hosted by Guy Garvey of Elbow, other participants include musicians Imogen Heap and Kathryn Williams alongside producers John Lissauer and Andy Wallace.

MOJO magazine's December '08 issue paid tribute to Cohen with a celebration of his "deep and moving music". Of Allison Crowe's contribution of "Joan of Arc" to its 'All Star Tribute", (featuring Judy Collins, Nick Cave, Martha Wainwright and others), a cover-mount CD titled "Cohen Covered", MOJO says: "Once famously described by the Vancouver Courier as possessing a style akin to 'Elton John meets Edith Piaf', the Canadian singer-songwriter Allison Crowe is renowned for her ability to blend control and melodrama. Certainly she does so on this spirited cover of Cohen's Songs of Love and Hate classic, a track which also powerfully showcases her considerable talent as a fine interpreter of song."

Jeffrey Pitcher, Artistic Director of Theatre Newfoundland Labrador has worked with Crowe on TNL's "Sexy and Dangerous" production in Corner Brook for two years. He says: "No matter where she is in this world, that voice, that conviction, it crosses all borders. She's one of those rare artists that fits into any culture, any community because she is who she is – an incredible talent."

"Ever wonder what it would have been like to listen to a gifted singer/songwriter from Saskatchewan in a small, intimate hall before she became Joni Mitchell? Don't fret the missed opportunity. There's no need to turn back the clock. Check out Allison Crowe," says Robert Reid in The Record (Canada). Longtime WGTE/NPR (USA) host Ross Hocker calls a performance by Crowe "the most honest, heartfelt, and directly intimate concert in my entire life".

Allison Crowe (voice/piano/guitar) and her band-mates, Billie Woods (guitar), Dave Baird (bass) and Laurent Boucher (percussion), embark now on tour - a string of dates that launch in her Atlantic home, Newfoundland this Saturday, May 9, at Bianca's, in St. John's, NL and Wednesday, May 13 at the Arts and Culture Centre, Corner Brook, NL - and take the quartet to a range of European cultural capitals:

23.05.09 - The LOT, Edinburgh, Scotland
25.05.09 - The Halo, London, England
28.05.09 - Aula Carolina, Aachen, Germany
29.05.09 - Jazzbar Vogler, Munich, Germany
03.06.09 - Jazzlokal Mampf, Frankfurt, Germany
06.06.09 - venue/city tba
09.06.09 - Osterkirche, Berlin, Germany
11.06.09 - Divadlo Dobeska, Prague, Czech Republic
13.06.09 - Tunnel-Vienna-Live, Wien, Austria

For music and more info visit: allisoncrowe.com

Happy Mother's Day weekend!

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