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Tidings: CD Review
Carol Swanson,
Friday, October 22 2004

What a find! Tidings is an exceptional holiday album, and Canadian Allison Crowe is a stunningly talented performer. Her voice celebrates the music with a bluesy rock-gospel intensity; her controlled vibrato, silken rasp, and powerful projection rivet your attention. This is no casual background music for your holiday party; be prepared to be amazed.

For the most part, this album is all about Crowe's spectacular, unique voice and her exceptional piano playing. Given her incredible vocal power, the minimal production provides just the right showcase. She easily fills the room with soulful energy all on her own. On three tracks (#4, 10 & 11), Crowe gets some fine support from two friends on bass (David Baird) and drums (Kevin Clevette). The artist's vocal delivery is so intense, one wonders how Crowe retains the energy to provide piano accompaniment. In fact, her piano abilities are so natural--so personal--that the keyboard seems to operate as an organic extension of her body, just another "voice" emanating from her musical soul.

Somebody pinch me--the song selections here are outrageously fine--a folk rocker's paradise! To start, there are six lovely pillars of traditional holiday music ("Silent Night," It Came Upon a Midnight Clear," etc.). Then things truly take off--Crowe includes Joni Mitchell's "River," Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," two songs by the Beatles (the John Lennon/Paul McCartney tunes of "Let It Be" and "In My Life"), one Rolling Stones number ("Shine a Light" by Mick Jagger/Keith Richards), and Sarah McLachlan's "Angel." Although these tracks stray from the holiday path most commonly tread, each cut relates to spirituality on its own terms, and the overall package works in grand fashion. Interestingly, although Crowe is herself an acclaimed songwriter, she has penned no holiday numbers here. Perhaps next year.

The artist opens with an unadorned, a cappella presentation of "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear," then rolls cleanly into an intensely moving rendition of "River," one of my favorite holiday tunes. When the artist sings the crystalline, sorrowful line "I made my baby cry," you can almost feel the tears welling up inside. Crowe's wonderful "Hallelujah" is an absolute show-stopper. To be honest, this album is packed with highlights from stem to stern. Every song radiates sincerity, creative flair, and emotional intensity.

No doubt about it--Tidings is one of the best holiday albums this year. If you crave folk/rock music that speaks from the heart, invite Allison Crowe into your home this Christmas season. She's sensational!