Joanne Bealy, Village Views
October 24, 2003
The first time I heard Nanaimo resident Allison
Crowe sing, I was cooking (which happens rarely enough) with the
radio going in the background (which is also unusual). This voice
came out of the radio, reached into the bottom of my gut and twisted
me around on the spot so I found myself staring at the speakers.
Everything disappeared except the voice. I'd never heard anything
quite like it: the strength, the heart, a raw vulnerable kind of
power. I started laughing it was so deep.
Allison Crowe, I've since learned, will do that to you. And lucky for us, she's performing tomorrow night, Saturday, at ArtSpring with her band and a coterie of local musicians, some of whom have worked with her before and some of whom she'll be meeting for the first time.
Alley, as she's known by her friends and fans, has been around music all her life. " I have had some sort of music and art in my life since I was very little," explains Crowe. "I took all sorts of music lessons, took theatre, started writing poetry, began writing songs..." When asked how she manages it all, "Basically, lots of practice and getting out there, (not being afraid to) experience music and life."
Crowe counts Nina Simone and Ella Fitzgerald as early influences and is equally at home listening to Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam. Her love of music extends from Beethoven to Ani DiFranco. But how to explain her own style? Adrian du Plessis, Saltspring resident and Crowe manager, describes it as a "unique blend of jazz, blues, rock, gospel, folk and grunge."
I ask Alley how a 21-year-old such as herself is able to project such powerful emotion through her music in a manner that usually takes a lifetime of experience and hard knocks to pull off? "Well, for someone my age I have experienced and seen a lot of different things," Crowe says thoughtfully. "I started singing in clubs regularly when I was 15. I've seen myself and people that I know go through so may sorts of experiences - love, pain, grief, anger, joy, all the trials that everyone goes through, in many different ways. Life in general helps with inspiration." Almost as an afterthought she adds, "I'm kind of an intense person. I'm a Scorpio, after all."
After walking away from recent negotiations with U.S. record label interests in New York, Crowe has just launched her own independent label, Rubenesque Records Ltd. "I started seeing that there would be a significant loss of independence had I gone forward with them and that most likely would have included them getting rid of my band and manager. I was not cool with that."
She also has a desire to give back. "(Rubenesque is) evolving into what we hope (will be) a platform for up and coming young artists, to get their music heard and out there through performance. People did that for me as I have been going along in my career, and I hope to do the same for others."
Don't miss Allison Crowe (voice/piano) this Saturday October 25, 8pm at ArtSpring with her bandmates, Dave Baird (bass) and Kevin Clevette (drums). They'll be joined by some very special friends.