Matt Charlton, The Coast (Canada)
September 8 - 15, 2005
BC singer-songwriter Allison Crowe has been making music her own way since
she was a teenager. Matt Charlton finds out why.
Ani Difranco started her independent record label, Righteous Babe Records,
after moving to New York and realizing the record industry wasn't
interested in embracing what she had to offer. Now with a staff of eight,
and offices on two continents, the label has become more of a philosophy
than a means to an end. Providing a beacon of hope to independent artists
everywhere, DiFranco's model has proven that the compromises of big
business aren't necessary. With the proper mixture of passion, talent and
hard work, music can still support itself.
Nanaimo, British Columbia, based singer/songwriter Allison Crowe is of a
similar state of mind. The artist has released three albums on her
self-run Rubenesque Records. Through her own means she has developed a
strong fanbase and backbone of critical support that has seen her stature
in the Canadian music scene continually rise over the past two years.
Now with the release of her fourth album, Live at Wood Hall, she is
preparing to head out on a tour that will see her play shows across Canada
and into the United Kingdom. It's a chance for Crowe to expose new
audiences to her highly acclaimed live show, something that she has been
perfecting for the past eight years.
Crowe began writing songs in earnest at the age of 15, soon after taking
some compositions to the stages of local clubs to ever growing acclaim.
"The occasional person would come up and say that they saw me at one of
them," she says of interest she gained at the time. "That was a really
cool experience, because it was from people I'd never met. So, that was
new and exciting."
In 2003 she released Lisa's Song + 6 Songs. The collection of live
recordings not only marked her first recorded output, but also the first
release on Rubenesque. She followed with 2004's Secrets, a formal debut
made up of originals and covers that further developed already growing
interest from both the media and the public. Keeping with this rapid pace,
her Christmas album, Tidings, soon followed. During this period she also
taped two hour-long, nationally broadcast televisions specials, Inside
Pandora's Box and Tidings.
Live at Wood Hall is a two-disc live recording that merges her own writing
with a series of songs by various other artists, including Leonard Cohen,
John Lennon and Tori Amos. Showcasing a jump in production quality from
her past work, the album places her striking vocals at centre stage,
creating an exciting promise of the power of her show, and future work to
With both a solid catalogue and strong fanbase, Crowe appears to be in the
perfect position to begin looking for the support of a major label. But
she seems much more interested in following in the footsteps of one of her
"I have always looked up to artists like Ani DiFranco who have done things
their way. I really want to be able to basically have an entity through
which I could conduct the business part of the music," she says of her
decision to focus on working through Rubenesque. "Doing things the way I'm
doing them is probably a lot slower than going with a major from the
get-go, and is a lot of work. The fact that I get to slowly build and see
everything as it happens and have complete creative control is
The choice is one that more and more musicians across the country are
making. One that lets their passion for their music sustain their careers,
rather than contractual commitments.
"I won't fault anyone for going that route, because everyone has a
different goal and path, but there are other ways," says Crowe. "It's not
easy, but neither is signing your life away. At the end of the day, I just
want to be able to be content in what I'm doing."
Allison Crowe w/Meaghan Smith, September 10 at The Music Room, 6181 Lady
Hammond Road, 8 pm, $15, 429-9467