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CD: Tidings, 6 Songs +
Derrick Marr, Great White Noise
Monday, February 9, 2004
6 Songs + is as good an introduction to an artist as you are ever going to get. Allison Crowe (vocals/piano), together with Dave Baird (electric and acoustic bass) and Kevin Clevette (drums and percussions) have recorded a CD rich with lyrical content in which Allison has managed to merge writing skills with vocals that cover every note on the scale, and probably some that arenít. Musically, the trio is as tight as any I have heard, each rendering a flawless performance.

There will be the obvious comparisons to the songs styles of Sarah McLachlan, and, in truth, there are similarities, but that in no way should be taken as meaning there is any intentional formula following. It is simply the case of two women with beautiful voices sharing a passion for a somewhat laid back, jazz based style of pop rock.

Born in Nanaimo B.C., also coincidently the hometown of Diana Krall, Allison was exposed to music from a very young age. She quickly developed a love of jazz music and by the age of 15 found herself playing to audiences up and down Vancouver Island.

Tidings is a similar listening experience, this time wrapped pleasantly in the guise of a Christmas CD. The songs selected and recorded for this disc, however, ensure that it is far more than simply something listened to once or twice a year. Combining traditional Christmas classics such as Silent Night and O Holy Night, with lesser known or thought of works such as Hallellujah, In The Bleak Midwinter and Shine A Light, and even a version of the non-Christmas, yet inspirational Sarah McLachlan hit Angel, Allison has released a CD that is a pleasure to listen to both during the Yule season and any other time of the year.

True ďvocalistsĒ are seldom stumbled across in this age of nu-metal, hip-hop, rap, or any of the other multitude of genre fragments. Sometimes it seems like the art of writing a good song is lost. In the rush to get the next all-elusive hit, many talents have fallen by the wayside and have perhaps forgotten what started them on this path in the first place. To date it seems like Allison has held true to her origins. Only time will tell if this remains the case, but personally Iím thinking there are going to be many, many more insightful and beautiful songs emerging from within the young lady from Nanaimo.

Allison was kind enough to answer a few questions for me recently. So instead of me continuing to ramble on, here are of few of the things she has to say, complete and unedited as they were asked and answeredÖenjoy.

GWN: I understand that Rubenesque Records is not only the label that releases your music, but in fact is YOUR label. What made you decide to launch an independent label and take on the headaches of that instead of following the more traditional route of submitting your music to the large labels?

Allison: I started Rubenesque as a company a couple of years ago, and have only started truly putting it to use just recently. In late 2003, we decided to make it not only the label that releases my music, but also use it as a platform for up and coming artists to get a chance to perform through live shows :) Basically, what I want to do is have creative freedom with my own music, and to give young artists the same opportunities Iíve had.

GWN: Has the work on the label been worth the effort, or if you had to do it over again would you try something different?

Allison: I would say itís definitely worth the effort. We are truly just starting out, so I might feel differently in a matter of years, but I would say that this experience so far of being completely independent has been extremely rewarding. I would not do it differently if I had the chance to do it over again. Also, being able to help other artists is great!!! :)

GWN: Any plans to take on other acts in the future or will this remain a label for releasing your music alone?

Allison: It takes time to build, and get solid distribution and the parts of the record company in place. Itís really one step at a time. As it stands right now, I will pretty much just be releasing my own music, and I wonít be taking on any artists in the recording/career sense. In the future, however, thatís something I may consider. :)

GWN: At roughly what age were you when you realized this is how you wanted to earn your living?

Allison: Earning a living is all relative, right? hehehe. Well, joking aside, I would say I was probably around 8 years old when I realized that this is what I would love to do with my life. Of course, at that time, I also wanted to be a vet and a dentist and, possibly, a mermaid.

GWN: Who were your premier influences growing up, and which band or musician would we be surprised to find out you are a fan of?

Allison: Growing up, I basically listened to whatever was playing on my parentsí stereo or car radio. I heard a lot of Elton John, Led Zeppelin and all sorts of jazz. Jazz musicians surround my immediate and extended families, so that was a great influence on me. Also, through lessons, I played a lot of classical music. I would at a later time steal my brotherís CDs, which led me to Pearl Jam in 1991 or 1992, and Counting Crows in Ď93... Then, a year or two later, I heard Tori Amos, and then Fiona Apple, and then Ani DiFranco... And the list basically continues on from there. You might be surprised to learn that I am a HUGE fan of musical theatre. Thatís another thing I was brought up onÖ I wanted to be Eponine or Fantine in Les Mis, and Grizabella in Cats. :)

GWN: Women in the music industry seem to be flourishing perhaps more than they ever have in the past. Do you credit this to any particular ground breakers, or is it simply our culture finally catching up to the talent and accepting it? Do you feel you have encountered any difficulties simply because of your gender, or are we finally on the verge of getting past that in the industry?

Allison: There are so many women responsible for paving the way for women today that it would be hard to name just a few. But I would certainly like to thank all of them for making it even possible for me to be doing what I am doing now. From Billie Holiday to Joni Mitchell, and everyone in between, before and after :o) Ani DiFranco is a huge ground-breaker for artists in general, as she does everything on her own terms. Thatís something I think is amazing, and is definitely something to aspire to!! :o) I have encountered rude comments from random people, those who try to cut you down simply because youíre a female. Thatís about it. I usually just feel sorry for whoever says things like that, because they are really just ignorant. They used to really get to me, but I realized, if I let it get to me then they have won. So, instead, I donít. :)

GWN: Any hard lessons you have learned or situations you have encountered that you could advise younger female performers starting out on how to avoid or handle?

Allison: I would say, basically, just be aware of your surroundings, wherever you are. Make sure that you are safe, really. Also, remember to assert yourself. Donít ever change yourself or just go along with something because someone else says so, and you think you donít have a say in the matter. If itís about you, then only you have the final say. Donít be intimidated.

GWN: Your version of Leonard Cohenís Hallelujah is probably one of the nicest songs, whether a Christmas song or not, that I have heard. What inspired you to pick that particular song to cover on Tidings? It certainly isnít what most people would call a Christmas Classic.

Allison: First off, thank you so much :) I think that this song, while not traditionally Christmas-y, is indeed spiritual in its own way. Itís also just a really beautiful song, and thatís what led to it being on the album. I sing Hallelujah in concert and when it came time to make the recording it just seemed to fit.

GWN: What are the long-term goals for Allison Crowe and her band?

Allison: The long-term goal is to just keep doing what we are doing, on a grander scale. The short-term goals are recording, touring, touring, and more touring!

GWN: Any plans to tour on the east coast?

Allison: Yes indeed. We hope to make it to the east coast this spring/summer. :)

GWN: IF you have any free time, what do you do for hobbies and/or fun?

Allison: I am really in to computers. I have also taken to watching the show 24 almost every night (seasons 1 and 2). Aside from that I enjoy doing anything thatís even remotely creative. Crafts, drawing, writing, cooking, etc. And then of course, performing in concerts for me is fun, so Iíll count that. Exercise can be fun too; we have a lot of nice places around Nanaimo to go for walks/runs. I am also taking Biology through correspondence right now to get my high school diploma, and thatís a lot of fun, too!!

GWN: Outside of the music field are there any business endeavors you plan to pursue?

Allison: At this time, no. But, in the future, I would love to get back in to theatre, and maybe write a book. (Iíve tried before and I donít seem to have the attention span for it yet.)

GWN: Are you having fun?????!

Allison: YES!!!