SongVault Artist Profile
Singer/Songwriter / Folk Rock
"I love singing for people," says Allison Crowe. "It's a way to connect and share with others. Communication is crucial. Just being able to do what I do, to write and sing and perform, makes me feel not only alive, but incredibly lucky. Knowing at any moment everything could change, I don't take one second for granted."
"Allison sings with such an intensity of emotion, it's easy to see why she's often quoted as saying 'Why music? Why breathing?'," notes pioneering music blog Muruch. "That kind of artistic passion seems extremely rare these days."
Crowe's home is Corner Brook, NL. Her birthplace is Nanaimo, BC (November 16, 1981). From Canada's coasts she's taken the road less-traveled to harmonizing life as musician (voice, piano, guitar, fiddle, bodhran), composer, arranger, audio engineer & producer. From the lovely isle of Newfoundland her reach is global. Millions of people enjoy her songs and music videos – on land, sea, and in the air – everywhere from an home-computer in the Gulf to a state ceremony in Tasmania.
"Allison Crowe has a voice to fall in love with," says UK music industry journal Record of the Day, "descended from Scottish, Irish and Manx stock. She's exactly the sort of artist who can make serious headway on her own label and that's just what she's doing." Across the sea, Ray Padgett (Cover Me, SPIN, Mashable) observes: "There are some voices that speak (or sing) for themselves. You know the ones. Voices where it doesn’t matter what they sing. Voices where it doesn’t really matter what instruments support them. Solomon Burke has such a voice. Jeff Buckley had it. Allison Crowe has it too."
"Expressing emotion is where Allison Crowe excels. Whether covering other artists... or performing her own songs... each track becomes alive and palpable," says Paris Voice. "The music is the woman," writes Erin Fletcher. "She communicates about love, death and life through her songs. Her voice is unmistakable, and in the same song she can be powerfully raw, yet hit a high note so delicately it slips through her lips and kisses your ear."
Ani DiFranco and Loreena McKennitt inspired the strong-willed Scorpio to create Rubenesque Records, her own label. Since 2001, via 26 albums, singles, EPs and compilations, Crowe's oeuvre nears 200 unique tracks embracing roots, rock, Celtic, folk, jazz, soul, Canadiana and Broadway.
Rubenesque's series of artistically and commercially successful releases includes: Lisa's Song+ 6 Songs (2001-3); Tidings (2003/4); Secrets (2004); Live at Wood Hall (2005); This Little Bird (2006); Little Light (2008); Spiral (2010); Arthur / Up to the Mountain (2011); Tidings Concert (2012); Newfoundland Vinyl (2013); Heavy Graces (2013); Songbook (2013/14); Souling (2014); Newfoundland Vinyl II (2014); Sylvan Hour (2015); Newfoundland Vinyl 3 (2015); Souling (Bonus Tracks Edition) (2015); Introducing / Heirs+Grievances (2016); and Great Island Wonder (2017).
Broadcast highlights include a pair of one-hour television specials: “Allison Crowe: Inside Pandora’s Box” and “Tidings” (airing, for years, nationally across Canada).
Crowe performs solo and with band – LIN (cello, vocals), Sarah White (mandolin, guitar, vocals), Dave Baird (bass, vocals) – headlining concerts on hundreds of occasions in over a dozen countries.
Billed before Carol Ann Duffy, Britain’s Poet Laureate, and (the late) Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Master of the Queen's Music, "Canadian angel Allison Crowe gave one of the weekend's most magical moments," relates The Scotsman. John Lennon Northern Lights Festival Director Mike Merritt recalls her "awesome" and "spine-tingling" performance "put hairs on the back of your neck! She brought the house down."
"You really have to see Allison Crowe live. The way she splits those notes, it's like light through a prism – all the colours of a song." adds radio veteran Rick Dennis.
In 2012, Allison Crowe thrilled on-stage with Canada's Royal Winnipeg Ballet singing and playing as part of the World Premiere run and subsequent tour of "The Doorway: Scenes from Leonard Cohen" – contemporary dance from Jorden Morris with artistic direction from the RWB's André Lewis. Paired with Morris' "emotionally charged" choreography her "glorious sounds... filled the room" recounts journalist Andrea Nemetz.
Hollywood director Zack Snyder flew Crowe cross-continent to cameo in "Man of Steel" – covering "Ring of Fire" on-screen in 2013's Superman blockbuster. “I’m a big Johnny Cash fan. And I’m a big Allison Crowe fan," reveals Snyder (Dawn of the Dead, 300, Watchmen, Sucker Punch). "So the combination to me seemed like an awesome opportunity if we could make it happen.”
Crowe is Musical Director of "Newfoundland Vinyl" – a rollicking hit at the Gros Morne Theatre Festival each Summer (since 2012). Theatre Newfoundland and Labrador Artistic Director Jeff Pitcher, (who conceived the show), remarks: "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." Other productions for which Crowe's arranged and directed musically include a Bertolt Brecht / Kurt Weill revue and Pitcher's TNL adaptation of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol".
"The first thing you notice about Allison Crowe is her voice. Rich and dark, it seems to come from a place most singers can only dream of accessing. Then there are the songs. Filled with raw passion and accompanied by Crowe's eloquent piano playing." Clodagh O'Connell (The Courier, Rolling Stone+) posits: "Elton John meets Edith Piaf".
"Power-house intense" comments an European reviewer, "the energy of 'Disease' can easily provide electricity to a small country for a decade." This tune and Crowe's wildly exciting performances lead to her being likened to innovative Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky and famed German Liedermacher Konstantin Wecker. “Gänsehaut-Musik” (goose-bump music) Peter Baier calls it in Süddeutsche Zeitung.
Allison Crowe's remarkable repertoire is distinguished by its beauty and integrity.
It's musical alchemy that melds gravitas and fun, speaking to: our daily trials, "Through These Heavy Graces" ("I want to live / but I can’t shake death"); love that's frank, "Wedding Song" ("I will never be the perfect wife / I don't even know what that is"); and shadowed by age, "Arthur" ("Would you hold me / If I disappeared now / And if I didn’t know / Who I was"); characters yielding, "Dearly" ("I don't know whose face I see / But I can see it clearly"); and defiant, "Skeletons and Spirits" ("Take your sympathy and shove it"). There's social commentary - the UNESCO-endorsed New Songs for Peace initiative features "Whether I'm Wrong" composed by Crowe in New York City during the days of Code Orange and Yellow: ("Whether I'm wrong, or whether I'm right / It doesn't really matter anymore / You've put up a wall / We've put up a fight / And now it seems we've forgotten / What all that was for"); and the epic "Disease" addresses such issues as anorexia/bulimia, mental health, and celebrity culture ("I don't want to exist on this plane / crashing down to the level of / depth of skin / flesh and bone / all wrapped up in pages / flashed in our faces"). It's all delivered beautifully by an artist who can be, at once, gorgeously fierce and tender - as reflected in "Secrets (That Aren't My Own)" ("I am not an angel / I'm more like Mona Lisa / there's something hiding in me / there's always something behind my smile").
A visceral performer and singular songwriter, Crowe's also acclaimed internationally as a supreme interpreter. "One of the best interpreters to come along since Joe Cocker," says Bob Bishop, Editor of Paris Voice. Her vital takes on pop standards – Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah", Joni Mitchell's "River", "A Case of You", The Beatles' "In My Life" and "Let It Be" – alongside lesser-known gems are applauded as "truly transcendent". Her vital performances have achieved huge popularity, featured by BBC Radio, MOJO magazine, WDR, and ZDF mediathek among others. Crowe's album “Tidings” blends traditional carols and hymns plus songs of joy, peace, and redemption from the secular canon to create a modern classic: "music for the season and all time".
"Her voice celebrates the music with a bluesy rock-gospel intensity; her controlled vibrato, silken rasp, and powerful projection rivet your attention. This is no casual background music... be prepared to be amazed," says Carol Swanson, Hamline University Professor Of Law - and music reviewer. "Every song radiates sincerity, creative flair, and emotional intensity."
"It takes a lot of self-confidence to tackle Aretha (Franklin)'s version of 'I Never Loved a Man...' but Allison does and nails it just as good as the Queen of Soul herself. Her piano playing is equally exquisite," says Bob Muller, curator of song covers at JoniMitchell.com "Treat yourself to one of the mightiest talents on the singer-songwriter scene today."
David Powell, Welsh-based DVD & Audio tech writes: "I'm listening to 'Effortless' on (Crowe's) This Little Bird album with my Pro-Ject headphone amplifier turned up about a quarter more than on most modern records. It sounds fantastic because unlike most modern records it hasn't had the **** compressed out of it to raise the loudness."
"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," forecast Robert Reid in The Record.
"Allison has a special gift that is so very rare in musicians today. She is true to her mind, heart and spirit," says Ross Hocker, long-time public broadcaster with NPR affiliate WGTE. Hocker, whose musical taste embraces Thelonious Monk, Bela Bartok and Charles Gounod, calls Allison Crowe's live performance "the most honest, heartfelt, and directly intimate concert in my entire life."
"In an entertainment world that increasingly genuflects at the altar of instant fame, Crowe seems an anomaly, building her career slowly and carefully," notes Adrian Chamberlain in Canada's Times Colonist newspaper.
"Soulful. Alive. Joyous. Grievous. Real, true, music is what I want to make," says Allison Crowe.
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