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Allison Crowe
Rubenesque Records Ltd.

Piano-based rock

Beth Hart, Tori Amos, Sarah MacLachlan, and Norah Jones

Allison Crowe is a young, Canadian woman who has only just begun making waves with her unique music. I first came across a bootleg of Crowe performing an Ani DiFranco song and was impressed with her distinctive interpretation since most DiFranco covers I hear are performed seem to be as close as possible to the original.

Allison’s piano-based songs are reminiscent of many female musicians who gained popularity in the 1990s and beyond, including Tori Amos and Sarah MacLachlan. Her music contains every ounce of emotion that seems to exude from female singers who choose piano as their primary instrument. However, there is something wholly different about this woman’s approach that separates her from the bunch. Most of it is subtle nuances in style and lyrical slant, but it is Allison’s voice and her use of it that really packs the punch. She is soulful, poignant, and always intense.

Secrets is Allison Crowe’s first full-length album, although she has a few EPs and other recordings under her belt. This effort is one of two planned for release in 2004 - an ambitious project for even the most seasoned musicians. Here she offers up 12 tracks that include a hidden bonus and two cover songs. Allison plays with styles and infuses bits of blues, folk, jazz, and more into each song, all beautifully packaged around piano and limited use of guitar and other instruments.

“How Long,” the opening track, highlights all of Allison Crowe’s strengths. This song is a piano ballad with such an intense chorus that the listener can’t help but feel tapped right into Crowe’s very being. The same is true of many of the other tracks here, including the bluesy “Secrets (That Aren’t My Own).” Allison’s cover of the Counting Crows’ “Raining in Baltimore” is starkly gorgeous, and her voice infuses more hope into the lyrics than the original. Apparently this is also the first song Allison Crowe ever performed in front of an audience. The hidden track - an a capella Celtic song - is absolutely stunning and makes me wish that Allison will delve into this style a bit more in the future.

Secrets is a compelling album that fans of almost any female singer/songwriter will love. Allison truly knows how to masterfully blend different styles. Although I’d like to see her next full-length contain only original tracks and maybe a bit more of the Celtic influence, there’s absolutely nothing amiss here. Allison Crowe is an artist I hope to follow for many years to come.

 - Jennifer Patton, 6/23/2004

Review published by Delusions of Adequacy