July 27th, 2011 · Music
Allison Crowe Performs “Arthur” & “Up To The Mountain”
Allison Crowe has often been featured on this site, in part for her gorgeous voice and in part for her exquisite songwriting. Both of those elements are on display in “Arthur,” which she wrote, and her cover of Patty Griffin’s “Up To The Mountain” (aka the Martin Luther King song), both of which are being released on a double-A-side single by Rubenesque Records.
While Allison Crowe’s work can be enjoyed as casual listening or even as background music, its effect is markedly enhanced if one attends to both the precision and aesthetic quality of her performance skills and the entwined complementary – and sometimes conflictual – implications and connotations of the lyrics. That is especially true of these two beautiful, allusion-packed songs.
“Up To The Mountain,” which was first played during Griffin’s 2005 concerts, has benefited and suffered from the “Hallelujah Effect,”1 having been covered by American Idol contestants,, Susan Boyle, and others en route to becoming the de facto musical signal for a set of feelings described by Ms Boyle as “Reassurance, love and the ability to keep going no matter what ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’ life throws at you…. God is our Light.”2 It may now require special effort on the part of the listener to differentiate the cultural ties from the impact of the song itself.
“Arthur” is elegantly, efficiently lapidarian, interweaving deeply personal questions of devotion and loyalty, Arthurian legend, intense romantic longing, and, of course, sex. It is, in a word (albeit a conveniently coined term) – Cohen-esque. The video for “Arthur” is also a visual treat, featuring sweet, awkward, altogether fetching clips from home movies, shot in Johannesburg and the Natal Coast of South Africa, of the honeymoon of two young people of my own parents’ generation.
The videos are embedded below. To hear the songs in streaming audio, to view the lyrics, or to buy the tracks, go to Allison Crowe – Arthur/Up To The Mountain Album.
Allison Crowe – Up To The Mountain
Allison Crowe – Arthur
- 1. The “Hallelujah Effect” refers to the fate of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” as it transformed from his little known masterpiece into the obligatory cover ubiquitously performed by every vocalist singing in videos, on TV, in karaoke clubs, or in movie scores and went from an agonized poem of sexual frustration replete with Biblical allegories into a melodic plug any prime time show can insert to indicate a point of high drama, spiritual awakening, birth, death, or sex. See Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” Officially Reaches Cultural Ubiquity In Germany, It’s Like, You Know, Hallelujah, Totally, Sign That The Apocalypse Is Upon Us – Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” Attributed To Alexandra Burke. and many more. [↩]
2. The Susan Boyle quote was found at Wikipedia, which cites the original source as Hutt, Brian (November 17, 2009). “Faith ‘is the backbone of who I am’, says Boyle”. Christian Today (London). Retrieved June 3, 2010. [↩]