At the start of this millennium, Allison Crowe embarked from her Pacific Ocean home, Vancouver Island, to perform a pair of concerts in Seattle, Washington, at a “Worldwide Jammer Convergence” of Pearl Jam fans. There was no roadmap for her success.
Today, Crowe is an internationally-acclaimed and much-loved singer-songwriter. Readying for another season of touring, and creation of her eighth album/song collection, she's navigating a life in music.
Ahead of the 20th century recording industry's entry into the digital age, Allison Crowe emerges in a new DIY generation. Decades earlier, punk, and, resonantly, pop culture revolution in the 1960s, erupted. Then, institutionalized payola and greedy elements smothered music radio. “Company men”, as John Lennon labeled them, took over – on stage as well as in the boardroom.
Rock's bold promise to squeeze your lemons was reconstituted in this new era - a branding pitch hot-blooded as ice-tea. In 2006, John Sebastian, jug-band music-maker, writer of classic songs for The Lovin' Spoonful, tells The New York Times: "The industry has been in the corporate noose for so long, it doesn't even have a leg jiggle left. There's no one left saying, 'Wait we want to make art'."
Rock and roll spirit, magnificent and wild as rebellion, lives on - vital tendrils reaching out through the casement. On Allison Crowe's path, classical and jazz roots meet with teenage influences Ani DiFranco, PJ, Tori Amos and Counting Crows. Independents DiFranco, Loreena McKennitt and Janis Ian show there is a way – and it's different for each.
Coursing freely, Crowe's real “story” is her immense creativity – talents and gifts of writing and musicianship, (voice, piano and guitar), which she shares openly. Communicating emotion, crossing over language, sex, religion, race, age and other dividers, performing original compositions and as interpreter.
Forming Rubenesque Records Ltd. to market her recordings, since 2003 Allison Crowe has released a series of seven albums/CDs singularly remarkable in its diversity and quality of writing and performance – and delivered epiphanies amid concert fun and excitement. (Testifying are music writers the world over – find a sampling below and more @ http://www.allisoncrowe.com/pressquotes.html)
"Soulful. Alive. Joyous. Grievous. Real, true, music is what I want to make," Crowe says. Embracing the web, she and her audience have found each other - big-time.
On Last.fm, the world's largest online music catalogue and recommendation site, (where her song tracks enjoy over 100,000 listeners and nearing 700,000 plays), Allison Crowe's been voted by some very discerning music-lovers into the "Singer-Songwriter of the Week" group's Hall of Fame – joining Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, Townes van Zandt, Carole King, Neil Young, Van Morrison, other legends, and a handful of younger artists. Crowe, 29, is the only singer-songwriter under 30 selected – closest her age in this august company is Conor Oberst (32) and Sufjan Stevens (35).
On Jamendo, the planet's premiere platform for free music and a community of Creative Commons music authors, Crowe's original songs have been played over one million times by 200,000 regular listeners. On YouTube, the video site which serves as a top music discovery forum, Crowe's music videos have over 10 million, (un-bought and un-rigged), listens/views. Add one-million-plus plays and downloads of original music from her own website, and the totality represents a musical connection achievable in pre-internet times only by gold-to-platinum-selling acts with label muscle flexing major financial support.
For Allison Crowe, wholly-independent, this exposure also translates into sales, as people still want physical CDs, and, so far, more than 500,000 paid downloads/streams (via iTunes – and such 'etailers' as CD Baby, Amazon, Emusic, among others, which serve their own music-buying bases).
Bicoastal Crowe calls Corner Brook, NL, and Nanaimo, BC, home. Outside her native land, Canada, she's especially popular in the USA, Europe, and, increasingly, Australia, New Zealand and South America. Running her own operations, it's an incremental process to physically traverse the globe and perform. Bonds initiated online strengthen in the flesh. It's the stuff of legend.
A sensation in the Village Hall, Durness, Scottish Highlands, just a few years ago, Allison Crowe's on a bill with Carol Ann Duffy, currently Britain's Poet Laureate, and the Royal Academy of Music Players under the Master of the Queen's Music, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. Her set included Beatles' favourite “In My Life” - for members of the Lennon clan, local villagers, musicians and global celebrants come together for the "John Lennon Northern Lights Festival." Crowe's latest European tour wrapped, this past October, in the birthplace of a nation, atop Germany's fabled Harz Mountains. Medieval Quedlinburg, an UNESCO World Heritage Site, hosted Crowe who performed for an SRO crowd inside Blasiikirche, and an overflow audience circling outside the historic church.
Publicly, Dance Ensemble students at Lindenhurst High, New York, gambitsurya in Chennai, India, young folks 'round the world are singing and dancing to Allison's music for their communities, for themselves. In the present semester, Christina, Polly, Jess, Jil, Tamanna, Shamima, Nilufa, and Sabina, high school and college students at disparate UK learning institutions have made Allison Crowe songs, “Skeletons and Spirits”, “This Little Bird”, and “Lisa's Song”, course projects in Media and Video. In Hollywood, director Zack Snyder, (300, Watchmen, Sucker Punch), helming the reboot of the Superman movie series, tells ArtistDirect: "Right now, I've been trying to find a really good cover of 'Battle Hymn of the Republic.' I can't find one that I really like with all five verses, so that's a problem. I was going to call someone up like Allison Crowe and be like, 'Can you record a version of this?' That's how my brain works!” Privately, families are paying their last earthly respects to loved ones accompanied by Crowe's musical voice. Mothers are welcoming their newborns to this sound.
Allison Crowe's Spring Show comes to: Fredericton, NB (April 29), to aid The Kidney Foundation of Canada's “A Brush of Hope” campaign; Halifax, NS (April 30); and St. John's, NL (May 7).
"Una voce incredibile per una forza della natura." ~ Reset Radio (Italy)
"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." ~ Ray Padgett, Cover Me (USA)
"Canada's finest songwriter" ~ Stephen Thomas, We Write Lists (UK)
"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." ~ Robert Reid, The Record (Canada)
"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." ~ MOJO (UK)
"One of the best interpreters to come along since Joe Cocker" ~ Bob Bishop, Editor, Paris Voice (France)
"J'ai rarement été bouleversée à ce point par une voix féminine. Pure comme de la glace, puissante et même violente... qu'il est impossible de ne pas mettre son coeur en jeu en l'écoutant... faîtes place à une virtuose nom de Zeus!" ~ SplinterMuse (France)
"Ihre gestalteten Emotionen umfassen sowohl stürmische, dramatische Prozesse, Wut, Verzweiflung, aber auch spielerischen Übermut und einen unbändigen Lebenswillen. Im Kontext dazu stehen ihre zarten, hingebungsvollen Empfindungen, eine Lyrik, in denen sie die breit gefächerte Facette ihrer gesanglichen Begabung zum Klingen bringt." ~ Barbara Kirchner-Babinecz, Mitteldeutsche Zeitung (Germany)
"the most honest, heartfelt, and directly intimate concert in my entire life." ~ Ross Hocker, WGTE/NPR (USA)
Allison Crowe, one of the greatest voices and natural talents in popular music, is home in snowy Corner Brook, Canada this Winter, writing and recording songs before launching a new concert touring year.
So far, in 2011, Crowe has captured basic vocal, piano and guitar tracks for five originals - "Arthur", "By Any Terms", "Chasing the Rain", "Don't Breathe", and "Pull You Through" - and, for more fun, she's covering two 'Americana'-hued songs by sublime singer-songwriter Patty Griffin - "Mary" and "Up to the Mountain (MLK Song)".
It's a welcome, extended, stay in one spot, after a hectic 2010 that saw Allison Crowe again navigate concert dates between her Atlantic and Pacific Ocean homes, and expand continental touring territory. Crowe's latest album, (of seven), "Spiral", made best of lists from America to Europe and beyond.
Arts and entertainment blog Muruch, naming "Spiral" one of the top releases of last year, says: "Her voice flawlessly flows between the most pristine soprano and gut-wrenching, full-bodied wails. I hear Allison Crowe sing, and I remember the effect music is supposed to have on you."
Crowe's reputation encompasses her original songwriting, and singularly exciting live performances - and her art of interpretation. On her most recent visit to the City of Lights, Paris Voice Editor Bob Bishop called her "one of the best interpreters to come along since Joe Cocker".
Allan Showalter, author of the uniquely popular Leonard Cohen-centric blog, "One Heck of a Guy", expands on this theme: "Allison, whose covers include not only outstanding versions of Joni Mitchell's 'River' and 'A Case of You,' Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah,' 'The Beatles' 'In My Life' and 'Let It Be,' Lennon's 'Imagine,' and Cyndi Lauper's 'Time After Time,' but also the most provocative and seductive (forgive me, Aretha) take I've heard on Ronnie Shannon's 'I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You).' And, I stand by my conviction that Allison Crowe is the best thing to happen to 'Me And Bobby McGee' since Janis Joplin changed Kristofferson's lyrics."
On YouTube, Allison Crowe's audience is approaching nearly ten million (non-rigged) views. When makers of Hollywood movie, "Sucker Punch", were searching for how to reinvent the Eurythmics (Annie Lennox, Dave Stewart) song, "Sweet Dreams", they called on the "mistress of coversongs" as Crowe's been crowned by "Cover Lay Down" blog. Director Zack Snyder loves Allison's approach so they asked her to strip the song to an emotional core Actress Emily Browning performs the movie version (out later this month).
In present culture, it can seem anachronistic that popular music was once a fertile community for rebellion and honesty, and the mainstream of pop and rock artists aspired to something more substantial than a bauble in a corporate chain. As rare as her talent is Allison Crowe's integrity. Like inspirations Janis Ian, Ani DiFranco, and a few others making music today, she does not "play the game".
Allison Crowe's path less-travelled brings her to Fredericton, New Brunswick, Halifax, Nova Scotia, and St. John's, Newfoundland for concerts this Spring - before her next European tour. Details of all shows and music is available @ www.allisoncrowe.com
This is the version of "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)" from Allison's "This Little Bird" album. It's the song which brought Aretha Franklin to a big audience 44 years ago. And two hearts still beat as one :)
The lovely Valentine image is courtesy VintageHolidayCrafts.com
This week, Allison Crowe has recorded three new originals: "Arthur" (not a Kinks kover); "By Any Terms"; and "Chasing the Rain". She's also recorded a cover.
"Cover Me" blog's Vincent Scarpa says: "Canadian singer-songwriter Allison Crowe drops great covers every time we turn around." Scarpa brands this newest interpretation "a lovely acoustic tribute to one of America's most underrated songwriters. Patty Griffin would surely approve of this bare-bones delivery that exposes what are some of Griffin's finest lyrics."
On her most recent Tidings concert tour, Canadian musician Allison Crowe began performing "Mary", a song written by the sublime American singer-songwriter Patty Griffin. (She'd fallen in love with the song when US cable television program "Sons of Anarchy" featured it in its Season two episode "Balm".)
The New Year kicking in, Crowe pulled her piano stool over to the kitchen table, sat down and recorded this version simple and true.