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Secrets: CD Review
Teri McIntyre, Empowerment4Women
November/December 2004

"Why breathing?" comes the answer from Allison Crowe when asked about her career, "Why music?" A pretty elementary answer but it is well in step with the impassioned piano rock she casts out on her latest release Secrets. Everything spills forth in Crowe's music; she holds nothing back lyrically and lets her intense voice carry that emotion to the heights and depths of whatever environment in which it is unleashed.

The album kicks off with the bluesy piano ballad "How Long," which traipses through the complexities of waiting for something, anything to happen. "Whether I'm Wrong" is another blues-edged song that is subtly political in tone. Crowe wrote the song in New York about all the people she was seeing who don't support the war in Iraq but felt they had no voice in the matter. She decided to give them a voice, and does so starkly and with great conviction.

Sedate is the best word to describe "Philosophy" as it falls around you with stirring introspection and wistfulness. "Montreal" is all about love—falling in love, being in love . . . It is most romantic and ladened with heartfelt emotion. A favorite track is Crowe's stirring cover of Leonard Cohen's "Joan of Arc." The arrangement is masterful, as Crowe gets right into the lyrics and flips them out to give a vivid and highly charged perspective that is missing underneath Cohen's own deadpan delivery.

Crowe also covers Counting Crow's hauntingly gorgeous "Raining in Baltimore." I was trepidatious about listening to the track as it is my third favorite CC song (yes, I have ranked all of their songs). Unlike the woefulness that punctuates Adam Duritz's vocals on the original, Crowe manages to elicit a great deal of hopefulness from the melancholic lyrics that is unique and enjoyable (even to a fanatic like me). A large reason why I enjoy this cover is that I hear a little of Adam Duritz in the way she attacks and recedes from the song in terms of tone and style.

Crowe's vocal sound is really unlike any other artist I have ever heard. At times, I hear the Duritz influence (check out "Shine A Light" from Tidings as an excellent example); other times, I hear Cher's deep throat rolls or Tori Amos's breathy evocations. There is just such a mixture of ranges and styles that it is almost impossible to pinpoint the stunning power and strength of Crowe's voice when she lays it on top of her stellar piano playing.

Secrets is comprised of many different genres—from pop to folk to rock to blues to jazz—without a misstep among the tracks. She even throws in a hidden Celtic track for good measure. What is most appealing about Crowe though is her confidence and comfortability with her music. For someone so young to just grab onto the music and ride it out wherever it may lead is remarkable and admirable.