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Allison Crowe
Live at Wood Hall
Rubenesque Records Ltd.

Piano-based rock

Beth Hart, Tori Amos, and Sarah MacLachlan

By Allison Crowe:

This time around, the ever prolific Allison Crowe treats fans to a double-disc live album recorded in March 2005 at Victoria, British Columbia’s Conservatory of Music. Live at Wood Hall is a voyage through Crowe’s concert repertoire and offers up plenty of original tunes as well as a wide range of cover songs in a variety of styles. Armed only with her piano and stellar voice, Allison Crowe delivers a performance of superb quality that belies her young age.

The overall focus of Allison Crowe’s music is her voice and lyrics - and what a voice it is! Crowe has a strong and chillingly beautiful but decidedly feminine set of pipes, and it seems she can sing just about anything. There are plenty of ballads, including the anthem-like “There Is” and “Pray for Rain,” as well jazz (“In Love in Vain”) and Broadway (“Bill, I Dreamed a Dream”). Although much of Allison’s writing focuses on passion, hope, and love, some of Allison’s originals, like “Whether I’m Wrong” and “Disease” are infused with social commentary.

The cover songs on Live at Wood Hall are all well chosen to highlight Crowe’s voice, and yet she still manages to give each a bit of personal spin. Allison gives Ani DiFranco’s “Independence Day” a sense of urgency not found in the original, while her version of the Counting Crows’ “A Murder of One” becomes more haunting and sincere. Her take on Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee” gets a refreshing spin on the piano, while Tori Amos’ “Playboy Mommy” sounds completely at home with Allison’s style. Still, perhaps the most breathtaking moment is the a capella rendition of the Irish traditional “Believe Me if All” that perfectly caps off the first disc.

With two full discs of material, there’s a lot to digest on Live at Wood Hall, but for a concert recording, the album couldn’t be better. The mix of originals and cover songs is well balanced, and the recording quality is so magnificent you could hear a pin drop. Such clarity puts all the focus on Allison’s voice and piano playing without audience or other noise distractions. For the breadth of material offered and for the unique opportunity to hear Allison Crowe play live (since she doesn’t have any US dates coming up that I’m aware of), Live at Wood Hall is a great bet for anyone who loves simply beautiful vocals and piano-based music.

 - Jennifer Patton, 8/16/2005

Review published by Delusions of Adequacy