Two New Albums by Allison Crowe

Two New Albums by Allison Crowe


Album description/liner notes:

Allison Crowe’s gorgeous voice brings tidings of comfort and joy with “Souling” – her 11th full album release.

The artist, one of our greatest living musicians, singer-songwriters and performers, has always created authentic music.

With this newest song set her voice is heard wholly a cappella.

The songs themselves have a purity of expression – a 21st century take on music of faith and spirit – sounds and themes aired by carollers and soulers of old.

I am listening to Souling by Allison Crowe. It is a holiday album from the pretty Canadian singer/songwriter. What makes it different from her other albums(or any holiday albums from any artist ) is that it’s recorded entirely in a cappella.

It reminds me of many genres including old African-American spirituals. Her singing style is unique as at times there something pop about it , in other times , it is predominantly a soulful voice. But mostly her leanings are in Folk music.
Souling  as I mentioned is a holiday album and everyone who drops by at home will hear this  being played every now and then. It doesn’t sound intrusive. But it is also not something you can ignore because her interpretations of traditional materials are  like no other.That is why it is hard to compare her to other artists. Sure, guitar and piano are her prime instruments but her singing has an earthly and sensual quality. More bluesy than folk but more folk than rock.
There are 11 tracks in Souling. When you listen to each song, you will notice the scales she is using in her arrangements. This is the style I am talking about, which makes her renditions interesting. The fact that she has a strong soulful voice, makes Souling a perfect vehicle for her unique artistry.
I have my personal favorites including The Holly and the Ivy. Her background vocal harmonies remind me of water currents running underneath the sparkling surface. Her arrangements are undeniably exquisite. With the abundance of airy fairy artists out there, Allison Crowe has a style that sets her apart from the rest of her Canadian peers. Coupled with her appearance that reminds me of Pre-Raphaelite women, she creates a compelling combination of the earthly and the spiritual.
Wassail Song is another favorite as her background vocals capture the atmosphere of a chapel. Souling is an album that redefines the usual traditional holiday tunes and also about how they are being rendered. It is in this rendition that an artist tells the listeners her true identity. It’s beautiful and fresh, something that can start the test of time and seasons.

Newfoundland Vinyl II

Album description/liner notes:

As with following William Blake’s roadmap to eternity’s sunrise, fans of musician Allison Crowe know to kiss “the joy as it flies.”

Right now, Crowe is soaring – bringing her “Tidings” tour from Canada’s Pacific coast to its Atlantic shores. And she’s on the wing with two new albums: ‘Souling”, an a breath-taking cappella collection of traditional Christmas carols, and “Newfoundland Vinyl II”, a many-splendoured music mix – songs of, and from, her island home.

  After listening to the atmospheric and sparely populated world of Souling, Newfoundland Vinyl II is like stepping into the familiar terrain that Allison Crowe is known for. As always, her guitar sparkles with energy and joy.
I am amazed that she is able to court listeners from all genres. Her forte has always been acoustic playing. There is something rugged and simple about Newfoundland Vinyl II. No wonder she made a cameo appearance in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel last year. Yes she is in the movie(as a brunette singer with a guitar) performing in this little bar before Clark Kent gets harassed by guy who gets his truck smashed up like a pancake.
The penchant for a cappella and vocal harmonies are still there. And  she is a great story-teller. Listen to the poignant ballad The Water Witch and tell me if you are not moved by the emotions underneath the seemingly simply arrangement. She incorporates a range of materials and subjects in her songwriting. Perhaps this has something to do with her independent way of making music. I learned interesting bits in my research

“After learning how the mainstream recording industry operates, inspired by the examples of Ani DiFranco and Loreena McKennitt, and Creative Commons licensing opening new avenues for musicians, Allison Crowe launched her own record label, Rubenesque Records Ltd. The label was incorporated in 2001 and began operations with the release of an EP in 2003. She has created and released the following albums independently.”

Simplicity, leisure and sensuality are all found in Newfoundland Vinyl II.There are also different instruments- both traditional and modern , appearing in each song. One  example is the song Out from St. Leonard’s. The instruments play with each other in a call and response fashion.

I think every album  of an artist is a ‘love letter’ to the world. It is a message in a bottle. And there is power in something when you express it and that expression took time and effort. Because you can fake things through flourishes and production. But you could never fake the truth behind the songs. And I guess this is what The Newfoundland Vinyl II is about. It is about singing from the heart. It is about singing the songs of people that have been passed from every generation. The enduring sentiments in all these songs make them powerful and no matter how you sing them – you sing the toils, pains,heartbreak and joy of souls across time.

Newfoundland Vinyl by Allison Crowe

Newfoundland Vinyl by Allison Crowe

Young singer/songwriter Allison Crowe  puts tradition in motion with Newfoundland Vinyl.

How do you get to know the kind of people who inhabit a place? The answers can be complex but I do know that the kind of lives they led are reflected in their songs. The kind of music we listen to might not really say everything but it says something about who we are and the kind of values we have  As the background notes in the CD say: “…The album’s 10 tracks traverse parlour songs to country tunes and folk favorites, songs of land and sea that share the strength and the struggles, the heart-breaks and the humour of people.”

There are albums that focus more on the personal struggles of the singer/songwriter. But there are those that explore the encyclopedic aspect of songwriting and bringing the song history to the fore. This is where the work of Allison Crowe  proves its importance to contemporary music. She has mapped the culture of Newfoundland and gave each song an up to date delivery that transcends time.

The style of Newfoundland Vinyl echoes the sound of old vinyl records. This can be heard in the opening track Black Velvet Band where her voice takes the nostalgia of  parlour songs during the early part of the 20th century. Her strong voice and upfront delivery shine in Easy. The backing vocals owes much to the African-American gospel choir.  The project was the result of  her involvement with the Gros Morne Theatre Festival. She is now curating and arranging songs for the Summer fest.  She expressed her happiness in this project saying “I get to work with extremely talented and fun people each Summer in a gorgeous setting.”

There are dark humorous  moments in this album like Seven Old Ladies.

” And it’s-Oh dear, what can the matter be?

Seven old ladies locked in the lavat’ry

They were there from Saturday to Sunday

and nobody knew they were there.”

The variety of rhythms expressed in this album make Newfoundland Vinyl an exciting album to listen to. I found myself wrapping a blanket up, sipping tea while watching the rain outside. There is something about this album that makes the songs become the soundtrack of your life. The grace and subtlety in the instrumental and vocal arrangements make this a one of a kind must have album for 2013. There is that stripped down atmosphere in every track like it’s an unplugged concert. I am sure that you might have heard some of the songs and sometimes you wonder about their origins. Now you know.

Did you know?

In the movie “Man of Steel”, the Zack Snyder-directed Superman epic, she has a cameo – as a musician performing “Ring of Fire”, a song made famous by Johnny Cash.

Allison Crowe