December 20 ~ Amazing Allison Crowe scores
big - at home and away
"In a nation that prides itself on hockey to the point of obsession, there is something else in which we can take justifiable national pride, our young, female singer-songwriters. And for my money Allison Crowe is the best of the bunch, certainly the most versatile," says veteran Canadian journalist Bruce Mason.
Witnessing these past three weeks of Tidings concerts, originals and covers, of rock, folk, jazz, pop, gospel, and blues, settles the score - without need for overtime or shootout.
Many top talents have laced up their skates over the years. Supremely rare, though, is Wayne Gretzky. Bobby Orr. And, so it is with music.
Allison Crowe is emerging as one of the true greats in her arena.
Not since a post-Schmorgs-pre-Poisoned Art Bergmann commanded the stage of Vancouver's Commodore Ballroom has a young Canadian so purely manifest the exuberant spirit of rock and roll. Like Bruce Springsteen in his 1970s prime, Crowe delivers rock music as a religious experience. Her talent is transcendent.
And the testifying grows with each performance and recording.
Ted and Jerry Gibson, fans who traveled 650 miles, from Boise, Idaho to Victoria, B.C., for a December 8 concert were moved especially by an epic rendition of Allison Crowe's song "Disease" - noting: "We loved it, were amazed by it, were consumed by it." Writing in the current issue of Boulevard magazine, reviewer Robert Moyes says Crowe's live take on "I Never Loved a Man", (from her album "This Little Bird"), "would give Aretha Franklin goose-bumps."
Visceral North American reactions mirror those across the pond, where Allison Crowe was most recently a sensation at the John Lennon Northern Lights Festival in Durness, Scotland. Festival Director Mike Merritt describes Crowe's performance as "awesome" and "spine-tingling", adding: "Allison has put Canada well and truly on the map here!"
In a BBC documentary about the event, crowned the UK's Best New Festival, Merritt recounts bringing Allison Crowe together with Carol Ann Duffy, the UK's most popular living poet, and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, the Queen's Master of Music, on the Lennon fest's classical music night:
"I had a nightmare, I tell you, that day. I had a string quartet coming. And, unfortunately, literally as they checked in, the cellist was taken ill. As most people know you can't replace a cellist, especially in Durness, at the last minute.
And, so, I was left with a dilemma - what do I do? And as I mentioned earlier, everything that happened I thought went wrong, happened for a reason to be better. And I brought in Allison Crowe."
Merritt wondered how it'd work - a 26-year-old musician from Canada bridging performances by Carol Ann Duffy, "arguably the world's greatest poet", and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, "one of the world's greatest-ever composers". The gamble paid off magnificently. "My word, did that put hairs on the back of your neck! (Crowe's performance) brought the house down."
Click to hear John Lennon Festival Director Mike Merritt chatting with BBC Radio Scotland's Iain Anderson and more of the BBC documentary
European and U.S. tour dates are in planning for 2008. Folks in Canada still have three opportunities to enjoy Allison Crowe in performance this year. CHUM TV reports that all of its A Channel stations across Canada - Victoria- Vancouver, Barrie - Toronto, Ottawa, London, Windsor & Wingham + related satellite and digital channels - StarChoice and Bell ExpressVu - will broadcast "Allison Crowe: Tidings" on December 25, Christmas Day, at 8 p.m. (local times). This one-hour holiday special taped "Inside Pandora's Box" - produced by Doug Slack - features chat and live performance of seasonal songs from Crowe's "Tidings" album - all hosted by the ever-amiable Bruce Williams.
Following this seasonal tradition, Allison Crowe flies from Newfoundland to British Columbia for a pair of concerts in distinctly different settings atop the mountain resort of Whistler, B.C. On Thursday, December 27 at 8:00 p.m., REAL CANADIAN in Whistler presents Crowe in concert at the Franz Wilhelmsen Performance Theatre, Maurice Young Millenium Place. On Monday, December 31, at 8:30 p.m., on an outdoor stage in the Village Square, Allison Crowe helps ring in the New Year as part of Whistler's First Night 2008 Celebration of the Arts. For more word on these events, please visit the Tour page.
And, to wrap, here's a Christmas carol that emerged from another mountain village, Mariapfarr in Austria, almost 200 years ago:
Best wishes of the season. Peace on earth, goodwill toward all.