By John P. McLaughlin, Special To The Province December 8, 2011
Photograph by Billie Woods: Submitted, Special To The Province
Where: St. James Hall, 3214 W. 10th Ave.
When: Sunday at 7 p.m.
Tickets: $20/$15. Call 604-739-9373
Though she's not quite coming out with lines like "Lord T'underin' Moses" and "may your big jib draw, b'y." there's no question six years in Corner Brook, Nfld., has left its mark on the speech patterns of Allison Crowe, former Nanaimo girl. A hardened consonant here, a stretched vowel there and before you know it you can smell a hint of Atlantic spray in the air.
And what took her from the Harbour City four and a half time zones east to the Rock? Why it was love, son, the trembling yearnings of the heart or, as she puts it, "a guy. He's gone."
But she stayed. In love with the people and the place where the climate isn't really all that dramatically different, she says. Snow in winter, sure, but talking earlier this week, it was three degrees colder here than there. Plus, there's as much music around as there once were cod. And no, it's not all fiddles.
"It is really musical," says Crowe. "Pretty much all of the friends that I have there, if they don't play music professionally, they know how to play music. And a lot of them do play music professionally. And there are a few great clubs in Corner Brook that always have live music and in St. John's as well."
Perhaps most significantly, living in Newfoundland puts her in much greater proximity to Europe where she gets a lot of work.
Crowe has been at this a long time, since kindergarten when she took lessons from a family friend. There were years of the Royal Conservatory study and she still goes through those books. There were jazz lessons. And then she started making up songs, drawn to and inspired by the work of people like Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, Sarah McLachlan, Pearl Jam and Counting Crows. And, of course, finally, Joni Mitchell.
From these disparate influences she's developed a songwriting and vocal style that stops people in their tracks. She's been recording since the 2002 Lisa's Song EP after which she founded her own Rubenesque Records imprint.
While so many were still chasing after major-label acceptance back then, Crowe was already selling and promoting through message boards, playing the indie, online music card that sustains so many careers today.
In 2003 she put together her first Tidings show, a mixture of sacred and secular songs that celebrate both winter and Christmas. The year after that she recorded a Tidings EP and expanded it a year later. And now she's flown 13 hours west to play the current Tidings for her homies.
"It has sorta become a tradition," says Crowe. "It's always fun to know that whatever else happens in the year there are always these shows to kind of come back to. There are a few traditional Christmas carols and a few original songs in there as well and some different covers that I figured relate, in a way."
Expect Joni's "River."