Crowe for ChristmasPublished: December 15 2006
by Martin Levin
It is customary among some at this time of year, to begin to issue seasonal greeting by reference to some song. Thus, to readers, I say, have yourself a Merry Little Christmas, or, to paraphrase ecumenically, a Cheery Chanukah or a Kolossal Kwanza.
To help you on your way, there is the usual shower of Christmas albums. You might try CDs by Canadian icons Sarah McLachlan (Wintersong) and the Barra MacNeils (The Christmas Album II), or journey to the land of the green Christmas (mostly) for James Taylor's At Christmas, while the most unlikely source of peace and love is shock-rock heavy metallers Twisted Sister, with A Twisted Christmas. Somehow, I can't quite associate chestnuts roasting on an open fire or sleigh bells jing-a-lingling with Dee Snider and crew...
But for me, the real revelation is an CD from last year that I've only just listened to. I refer to that other singer-pianist from Nanaimo, B.C., Allison Crowe. And if you haven't heard of her or, better yet, heard her, you really should.
Her album is called Tidings (Rubenesque Records) and they are glad indeed. Beginning with a brief but stirring rendition of the carol It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, Crowe launches into a 12-track CD that contains not a single turkey, nor any stuffing. There are other carols (Silent Night, The First Noel), but Crowe also pays tribute to the gods of rock and roll, with charming readings of the Beatles' Let it Be and In My Life, Joni Mitchell's River and the Rolling Stones' Shine a Light, fittingly and thematically concluding with Angel.
Crowe's warm, natural, passionate — and need I add lovely? — voice are perhaps shown to best effect on another glorious standard, Leonard Cohen's magnificent and deeply spiritual quest for faith, Hallelujah. It's been sung brilliantly before by the likes of Rufus Wainright and k.d. lang, but Crowe easily holds her own in that august company. I expect much more to be heard from her.