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THIS LITTLE BIRD REVIEWS

 

Darling Be Home Soon
deadman's MOG blog (USA)
April 2010
 

One of my favorite Lovin' Spoonful songs has always been Darling Be Home Soon. A plaintive song, shot through with a melancholia that just tugs at the heart.

Allison Crowe has the perfect country/folk voice, as warm and burnished as Kentucky Bourbon, or as honest and gritty as Mississippi mud. Like most of my favorite singer/songwriters she is somewhat of a student/archivist, digging through the Great American Songbook, reveling & marveling at the incredible diversity within. She's surprising in her choice of covers sometime, but she's almost always right

Compact Reviews: This Little Bird
Robert Moyes, Boulevard magazine (Canada)
November/December 2007
 

Despite all the background noise currently swamping the music scene, (mindless music celebrity-gossip, over-hyped reunion tours of dinosaur rockers better left in deep storage, etc.), there are always good recordings that can sometimes be heard above the din. Here are five recent releases that are worth tracking down at your favourite CD shop:

I have been enamoured of Nanaimo singer-pianist Allison Crowe ever since she brought out her Christmas record, (Tidings), several years ago. Her latest CD, and also her best, is This Little Bird, which not only showcase her exquisite, vibrato-rich voice, but also reveals a maturing songwriting talent. From yearning ballads (“Effortless”) to the up-tempo title song, this is modern alt-pop that never cloys even after numerous listens. Crowe’s originals are vivid, both musically and lyrically, and she also does memorable covers. Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You” has a stark beauty while her version of “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)” would give Aretha Franklin goose-bumps.

 

(The four CDs following in this review are the newest releases from Jimmy LaFave, Eliza Gilkyson, Reid Jamieson, and Richard Thompson.

Joni Covers, Volume 93 - A Help Me Sandwich
Bob Muller, Joni Mitchell Discussion List (USA)
October 1, 2007

Allison Crowe - A Case Of You: Another fine entry in the Joni Covers pantheon for Allison, who first wowed us with her electrifying take on River. This time 'round she picks another Blue selection and imbues it with her sensitive singing and playing. From her 2006 release "This Little Bird", all of which is as tasty as this track.

ALLISON CROWE
sparklechops - 07 Jun 2007 - The Scene (Australia)

ALISON CROWE

THE LITTLE BIRD


Get a piece of paper and write Tori Amos in the top left hand corner. Then write Patti Smith top right, followed by Stevie Nicks and Leonard Cohen (stay with me) in the bottom two positions. Then draw diagonal lines from their names to the centre, forming a big symmetrical cross.

Here is where you will find Allison Crowe’s music. The Canadian singer/ songwriter’s trademark piano ballads contain heavy chords and spacious grooves, which underpin her powerful yet delicate vocals to great effect. There is an almost Celtic timbre to Crowe’s voice, which is crammed full of enough emotion to make anyone weep, but is carefully used to also make them smile.

Her band play impeccably throughout the album, with a sensibility not dissimilar to an Antony and the Johnsons recording. Production is water tight, thanks to Crowe’s own talents, and the songs tell of love, loss, hope and despair.

I would avoid researching this one if you’ve recently experienced a personal tragedy or have just finished watching Schindler’s List as it may just push you over the edge. But if you find yourself sitting at home with a glass of red and a good friend, or you’re on a beach somewhere with a book and no worries…..jump in, the water’s lovely.

Reviews - This Little Bird
Trevor Raggatt, Wears The Trousers (UK)
May 2007

 

 

1 Effortless

2 Skeletons and Spirits

3 A Case of You

4 Alive and Breathing

5 There Is

6 Now

7 Silence

8 Circular Reasoning

9 Darling Be Home Soon

10 Phoenix

11 I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)

12 This Little Bird

 

 ***˝

 

Only a year or so has passed since Canadian songstress, Allison Crowe released her live double album, Live at Wood Hall but she returns with a new studio set comprising new songs and a selection of well chosen covers on This Little Bird.  The live discs clearly show Crowe to be an artist who combines technical accomplishment with an ability to imbue her performances with emotion which betrays a beguiling mix of strength of spirit and delicate bruised soul.  With this in mind the fact that this new disc is a “band” album, rather than a solo effort, raised some concerns in my mind.  Would we see this little bird struggling to flutter above an overpowering rhythm section or swamped by layers of unnecessary overproduction?

Well, those worries were unfounded as the new songs are less presented in traditional “band” format and more “solo singer/instrumentalist with tasteful accompaniment”.  Phew!  The fragility and intimacy of Crowe’s vocal is retained, couched within the context of her tender and expressive piano playing while, when she stretches out into impassioned proclamation, the voice and piano remain squarely front and centre of our attention.  Where additional instrumentation is added it is as a complement to her remarkable vocal approach.

And recorded that voice is no less expressive than it is live.  Ranging from pure and angelic to sultry and confessional, Crowe excels at all levels.  The cover of the Joni Mitchell classic, A Case of You, demonstrates this perfectly.  The song covers Crowe’s full range – both tonally and emotionally – from strident confidence in the strength of love down to low groaning of self doubt and despair.  Live favourite Never Loved a Man… remains a tour de force even in a studio setting.  The distinctive vibrato which so clearly marks out Crowe’s vocal style is in evidence throughout but studio disciplines leave it more tempered and restrained than live where emotion and involvement in the moment can take control of pure performance technique.

For the most part the backing musicians are tastefully employed although there are a few moments scattered across the disc where perhaps the odd timing or note choice issue should have been addressed prior to final mastering.  However, this does not too seriously detract from the album.  In fact, on Skeletons and Spirits the fact that the hand percussion seems slightly out of kilter with the piano merely emphasises the subtle oddness and foreboding contained in the lyric.  Speaking of lyrics, the songs presented on Little Bird continue to range across the type of areas that so many songwriters cover – whether that’s questions of self-worth or self-awareness, finding and maintaining meaningful relationships or broader, for want of a better word, “political” areas.  However, as with all of Crowe’s output these otherwise standard topics are dealt with in a peculiarly insightful, intelligent and emotionally literate way.  Once again, on this album this talented young singer belies herself – This Little Bird is no Crowe, she is pure nightingale!

Trevor Raggatt

This LittleBird
Sophia Gurley, The Ectophiles' Guide to Good Music (USA)
December 30, 2006

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Comments:

A strong album of nine original tracks and three covers— Joni Mitchell's ubiquitous "A Case of You", John Sebastian's "Darling Be Home Soon", Ronnie Shannon's "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)". I like that the album opens with a lower-key song — Alison Crowe tends to push the emotion in her songs hard, and while "Effortless" is still an emotional song, it's nice to hear her take it a little easier. There are some more upbeat songs on here, too, which makes the album feel like it has a broader range than her previous collections, and thus it feels more subtle and nuanced. Love her gutsy "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)", which shows she can still really belt it out. The title (and last) track is a lovely, lively ending to a well-rounded collection. (sophiagurley@hotmail.com)

 

 This Little Bird
by Allison Crowe

Collected Sounds - Amy Lotsberg's Guide to Women in Music    

a Review by Amy Lotsberg Producer of Collected Sounds (USA)

Well, what can I say about the fabulous Allison Crowe that I haven't already said? I've reviewed her records for years and each one is incredible.

This woman has a voice that will have you shaking your head in am amazement. It seems to get better with each release as well.

Her songwriting is also very good. The songs are welcoming and emotional. They are catchy with out being pedestrian.

If you're a fan of beautiful piano songs with strong (but not aggressive) female vocals this is the record for you.

While you're at it, pick up her holiday record, Tidings. It's probably my favorite holiday record of all time.

Posted on December 7, 2006

Luna Kafé record review (Sweden)

 Canada - Full Moon 125 - 12/05/06

Allison Crowecoverpic
This Little Bird
Sambuca Music

Allison Crowe's previous records have all been good, but This Little Bird is her most defining moment yet. The strong-voiced singer has rarely penned better songs or chosen better covers.

Opener "Effortless" sees her and her piano dominate, a slow-burning but powerful statement being made. The version of fellow countrywoman Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You" burn with a steady flame. Crowe gets to the heart of the mystical, intoxicating song. "You're In My Blood Like Holy Wine" has rarely been a line better delivered. "Alive and Breathing" has one of her best melodies and is a breezy but focused song. She even gets away with covering Aretha Franklin's "I Never Loved a Man (The Way That I Love You)" in a soulful way.

Crowe's focused and her art's never been better. This little bird is airborne.

Copyright © 2006 Anna Maria Stjärnell

© 2006 FuzzLogic

 
Ultra Sound
The Province (Canada)
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Section: E-Today
Byline: Tom Harrison

POP

Allison Crowe

This Little Bird (Independent)

There is a spare backing to this record that allows Crowe's focused intensity to shine through. It's just enough to create a few highlights that complement her -- background vocals that add fullness, drumming that is hardly there but propels the songs, stand-up bass that anchors them -- but mostly this is, once again, Crowe at her piano. She shows an eclecticism that also reinforces her own songs. The best moments have atmosphere and her moodiness is truly affecting. B

- Tom Harrison

Artists: Allison Crowe

Jim Kloss, Whole Wheat Radio (USA), November 17, 2006

I have to tell you ... I find Allison's music and style captivating. She reminds me of early Elton John for some reason. I'd love to hear her with a large, full orchestra occasionally although I also appreciate the simplicity of having just her and the piano. (Maybe some of her songs I haven't heard have a full orchestra - I hope so.) I love the new album - "This Little Bird" and the Joni cover "A Case Of You". One of my favorite renditions. Plaintive and haunting. I never tire of her music.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Allison Crowe: This Little Bird

Allison Crowe's new album, This Little Bird, has finally been released so I'm consolidating my posts about the album into this one. I've been living with and listening to an advanced copy for almost two months now, waiting for the official release to post my full review. Despite being very familiar with the songs by now, I was still quite excited to receive the finished product last week.



This Little Bird includes nine original songs and a trio of covers: "A Case of You" (originally by Joni Mitchell), "Darling Be Home Soon" (originally by John Sebastian) and "I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)" (originally by Ronnie Shannon, best-known as covered by Aretha Franklin).

In addition to her credits of singer, songwriter, and musician (guitar and piano), Allison engineered and produced the album. The packaging of the album is simple and elegant, apparently a throwback to the old school vinyl jackets. The photography is initimate and candlelit, taken by Billie Woods (currently on tour with Allison).

Though I obviously love music very much, there are only a few singers that can really get to me with only the power of their voice. Eva Cassidy, Jeff Buckley, Antony & The Johnsons, and Damien Rice are a few examples of this, and now Allison Crowe.

"Effortless" is one of those subtle songs that quietly draws out whatever emotion you're feeling. Or at least that's how it effects me every time I listen to it. The lyrics stand out almost as much as Allison's voice. The insecurity and self-doubt of the song are very easy to relate to, and as usual Allison's vocals sound completely sincere.

I'm not certain if the opening lyric is the best part of "Skeletons and Spirits", or if it's the cowbell. Either way, it's a great song. The vocals go from the wry and slightly bitter opening verses soaring into an almost wail and then sliding back down into a purr.

I am probably the only person in the world that wasn't in love with Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You". Which is weird since I like most of Joni's other songs, but I just never got the mass appeal of this one song of hers. And the covers, oy. Like "Hallelujah", it's covered far too often by singers who really have no business singing it. Until now. Yes, I realize that Allison could sing the alphabet and I'd think it was a masterpiece, but still. Her emotive singing style made this song finally click with me, and now I'm like everyone else who loves it.

I love the way "Alive and Breathing" starts out so quiet with Allison's solo vocals over a simple tune and builds into a crescendo of voices and music. Sadly, the full aural experience of the song doesn't seem to carry over well into mp3. It sounds much better blaring from the stereo.

"Now" remains one of my favourites on the album. I wish that every singer-songwriter that considers doing the speak-sing thing would listen to this song. This is how to do it right. On the verses, Allison speak-sings, but she sings more than speaks so it flows smoothly with the music and blends into the all sing chorus. It's structured just right and sang beautifully. Of course, I know very little about song structure or writing or singing really, but I know what sounds good to my ears and this one surely does. Especially at the end when Allison unleashes that voice.

"There Is" and "Darling Be Home Soon" are pretty piano tunes. "Silence" is a haunting waltz featuring throaty vocals that fade into a siren chorus. And "Circular Reasoning" is probably spectacular on stage with its guitar, bells, whistles, and pure, lovely vocals.

On "Phoenix" and especially on her cover of "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)", Allison gives a soulful, soaring vocal performance worthy of the great female jazz and blues vocalists of decades past.

Need more cowbell? "This Little Bird" has it. The title song is an upbeat finale for an album that I love from beginning to end.

I can honestly and without hesitation say that This Little Bird is my favourite album of 2006. I haven't wanted to immerse myself in an album so intensely since I first heard Antony & The Johnsons. I think if the music blogiverse has any taste at all, Allison Crowe will be the new artist to be pimped out everywhere.

Allison and her manager have generously allowed me to share four songs from the album here:

Allison Crowe - I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You) (mp3)
Allison Crowe - Effortless (mp3)
Allison Crowe - Now (mp3)
Allison Crowe - Skeletons and Spirits (mp3)

Allison Crowe Official Site

Buy the album

Allison will be performing in the U.K. and Ireland as part of Oxjam on the following dates:

October 20 - London, Lauderdale House
October 21 - London, Halo
October 24 - Brighton, Sussex Arts Club
October 26 - Glasgow, Ramshorn Theatre
October 29 - Liverpool, Heart and Soul
November 1 - Dublin, Bewley's Café Theatre
November 3 - Aberdeen, Cowdray Hall
November 4 - Dundee, Chaplaincy Centre

Head over to The Face of Today for a review of Allison's October 21st performance in London.

***

Note: Unless otherwise noted, right click on the mp3s to download them to your computer. Please do not post the direct link to my mp3 files to any other site or blog. Instead link to Muruch or the particular post they are featured in.

   

CD Baby (buyer) reviews:  

 

5 out of 5 stars She just keeps getting better!

Reviewer: Bob Muller in SC (JoniMitchell.com's Grand Poobah of Covers)

Allison really comes into her own on this CD - her wonderful songs, supported by her emotive vocals, strong and confident, navigates them with feeling and strength. I mean, it takes a lot of self-confidence to tackle Aretha's version of "I Never Loved a Man..." but Allison does and nails it just as good as the Queen of Soul herself. Her piano playing is equally exquisite. Treat yourself to one of the mightiest talents on the singer-songwriter scene today.

November 1, 2006