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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

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Where the Crowe flies

Allison Crowe, Canada's bicoastal singer-songwriter, combines talent and emotion. For her, singing is more an emotional act than subject-matter delivery.

Crowe performs Jan. 31 at Edmonds Center for the Arts.

"I sing about my life, the universal things that are going on around me. If I'm putting a lot of myself into it, it often makes the audience feel good and relate, feel a little relief, a bit of therapy.

Crowe, 27, was born in Nanaimo, Vancouver Island but lives in Corner Brook, Newfoundland.

Billie Woods, a talented photographer and musician who joined Allison on three European tours last year, will open.

Crowe started her own label, Rubenesque Records ("I like Reubens and that style of woman").

"I'm pretty stubborn. I wanted to be in control creatively and in business. I had the inspiration of (independent artists) Ani DiFranco and Loreena McKennitt.

"And I use the label as a platform for up-and-coming artists … to have an opening spot on some shows and the opportunity to perform."

The Internet has been a huge factor in Crowe's success.

"It's a way to get music out there. I share all my music. It's a key to traveling the world. People download and listen in, get in touch and ask whether I'd play (in their towns).

"You can buy CDs as well as download on iTunes. People do buy CDs anyway. They want to support you if they like what they're hearing. And people even send donations to support the arts."

There's a reason for the support.

Bob Muller, song curator at www.jonimitchell.com, said, "Treat yourself to one of the mightiest talents on the singer-songwriter scene today."

And NPR Radio host Ross Hocker called her performance: "The most honest, heartfelt and directly intimate concert in my entire life."

Her set list is an eclectic mix of styles, newer and older, covers of Beatles' songs, originals, blues and more. Expect to hear distant echoes of Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, The Beatles, jazz and Broadway.

Crowe often covers other artists' songs.

"Sometimes it's nice to put on someone else's shoes, in a sense, to try on another song. I generally pick a song that I love, or speaks to me personally; one I can put my spin on.

Take Cohen's "Hallelujah," a lengthy song with so many verses (up to 15, depending on the source) that most singers sing only a section. She heard the Jeff Buckley and Rufus Wainwright versions and liked Wainwright's piano arrangement.

It worked beyond her wildest dreams. Her version has collected more than 2 million hits on YouTube.

"It's crazy, eh?

The classically trained Crowe has a big four-to-five-octave voice, although she won't range that far in performances.

Two songs on her new CD, "Little Light," are "Disease" and "Hold Back," two sets of lyrics that aren't light pop.

"I'm not good on light pop," she said.

The first was an old song of Crowe's that evolved; it's her take on eating disorders.

"Hold Back" is fairly new.

"It came with what's going on in my life the last couple years … figuring out who you are and what's going on and what you can and can't put up with."

Crowe performs mostly on the piano but will have a set with the guitar. She'll be a solo act but soon will be working with a band.

Saturday, expect the combination of talent and emotion to win the night.



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