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Wednesday, 24 March 2010

We Write Lists Covers: Hallelujah


Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah' was rare for me in the sense that I came to love it through first loving a cover version. In fact, long before I heard the original, before I bought Various Positions album and posited it myself between The Clash and Coldplay, variously, I had heard perhaps a dozen different versions, none of which Cohen's. For this, the song is rare to me - I normally come to know an original before exploring the ranging covers available - but for most people this is perhaps the common way of discovering 'Hallelujah'.

Most everyone who knows 'Hallelujah' will have first heard a version other than Cohen's, whether it be Jeff Buckley's magnificent re-imagining, which inspired almost every cover that followed it, John Cale's reeling vision, which has featured on soundtracks varying from Scrubs to Shrek, or perhaps the more recent Alexandra Burke cover, which caused controversy amongst music fans when it was chosen as the winner's song in 2008's reality talent show X-Factor, and went on to become the fast selling single by a female in UK chart history. I've had in my time the opportunity to see the effervescent Rufus Wainwright cover the song, but also to see Cohen himself perform it - notably in a style more reminiscent of Cale - and I am unsure a song has ever existed that holds more possibilites for interpretation by other artists.

As a place to start We Write List's new ongoing feature about some of our favourite covers, there is no more logical a place to start than 'Hallelujah', a song best known by its covers. What is perhaps most remarkable about the song is its versatility - that so many artists find a creative outlet within the majestic boundaries of the lyrics, and yet manage to create such different songs from such a solid and set starting point.

Buckley, for instance, is at once soft and appalling saddening as he struggles through the song. It sounds exactly like that, though - a struggle. His voice crumbles under the crushing devastation he injects into the song, and for a short while it feels as if there is no hallelujah in 'Hallelujah'. All that while, though, the beauty is so present, and so intense, that such a hopeless vision of the song does not matter, not really, not for now.

Alexandra Burke injects more popular sensibilities into the song, a sellable factor that does not necessarily seem in-keeping at first with the true nature of the words, and the meaning. The production is slick and soulless, as is the instrumentation. Everything, musically, is set to sell, as if the recording studio had a button on its desk that read below 'Make Popular'. A choir kicks in, and at first adds nothing at all, but isn't that how choirs work when Simon Cowell is in charge. But then - then there is Burke's voice. Smooth and sultry, it perhaps lacks the broken nature inherent to most other visions of Cohen's lyrics - but it is bolder, stronger and in many ways more soulful than one has any right to expect from a chart-topping cover. By the end it is apparent that Burke's 'Hallelujah' is not one aquainted with the sadness of past versions, but rather is a swooping gospel ballad. In this sense, it is unlike anything released before by a reality star - a soulful song covered originally.

Though most recent covers find their inspiration in Buckley's, Jeff Buckley himself found inspiration in John Cale's 1991 version. There is, at times, a sense of irony in Cale's cover, particularly apparent in his delivery of the line 'but now you never show it to me, do ya?' Remarkable for being the first of the modern interpretations of the song, there are so many of these now that Cale's is lost in the shadows - particularly behind Buckley's behemoth. Nevertheless, there is something new to be found here - a subtly wry take on one of the most beautiful songs written.

Unsurprisingly, the 'Hallelujah' put forward for review by Imogen Heap is a much starker affair, a much more sparse song, than anything before it. Besides the lyrics and structure, there is little comparison to be made between Heap's and either Cohen's or Cale's. Breathy and desperately lonely, Heap's cover is brief but perhaps the most original version of the song since Cohen himself.

Similarly - or as similar as possible to Heap's quiet and empty version - Regina Spektor offers a gentle interpretation devoid of the heavier instrumentation of most recent covers. Reliant on subtle strings and the most basic of piano, the song is carried by the bittersweet cello and Spektor's own haunting voice.

There are dozens of entries to this catalogue, and to list them all in any form of detail would fill an afternoon both for you and I. It's easy to skip over so many of the inferior versions, more difficult to ignore those by Rufus Wainwright, k.d. Lang or Kathryn Williams. Only one version remains impossible to ignore, however.

Allison Crowe is perhaps renowned a little too much around these parts. She is considered consistently magnificent - a burden on talent nobody should be given. Nevertheless, her cover of 'Hallelujah' is simply stunning, and remains one of my favourite covers of all time. Taking, as ever, inspiration from Cale's style of the song, Crowe throws in more soul and sadness than any one person should be capable of. In Crowe's hands, the song has as much majesty as Cohen could ever have conveyed, as much sadness as the Buckley version and as beautiful instrumentation - though completely original, and even more sparsely terrific - as Spektor or Wainwright or anyone else you may care to mention. Simply, a song so beautiful has never been sung so beautifully.

Allison Crowe - 'Hallelujah' 
<a href="">Hallelujah by Allison Crowe</a>

Hallelujah, by Leonard Cohen
anacronyms (Canada)
December 15, 2007

"Hallelujah, by Leonard Cohen. This song has somehow become Crowe's signature, if a singer who defies description as stubbornly as she does has a signature... Cohen's original version is a spoken poem, all of the meaning contained in the words. Crowe's version is a living thing, a meditation and a celebration and a benediction."

Hallelujah! YouTube hits keep indie musicians free
Adrian Chamberlain, Times Colonist (Canada)
September 22, 2007

Excerpt from feature:

"It's not hard to see why Crowe's Hallelujah -- recorded in a single take -- is popular. It's one of Leonard Cohen's most affecting songs, and the 26-year-old, accompanying herself on piano, makes it her own with raw honesty and formidable vocal power. It's simultaneously heart-breaking and redemptive, and it has captured the imaginations of people around the world." 

It's #1: It's Top of the Pops
Martin Warminger, Music Obsessive (UK)

" 'Hallelujah' is a bit of a sacred cow of a song and has been covered by artists too numerous to mention... I'll go with John Cale's world weary take and Allison Crowe's powerhouse of intensity as my yardsticks."

January 17, 2009

Hallelujah Chorus
Radio Free Stan (USA)

"But forget about Alexandra Burke's version and listen to what Allison Crowe does with the song. Her voice couldn't be more different from the stereotypical... Here is someone who feels the music and communicates. Simply stunning - full of real power and enormous feeling."

December 18, 2008

River: Allison Crowe
Bob Muller, Joni Mitchell Discussion List (USA)

"One of my favorites; there is a pinch of Shawn (Colvin) in Allison's voice, except imo Allison has more punch and emotional bite in her vocals. She makes singing this song seem easy, and anyone who's tried it will tell you it's not."

Joni Mitchell’s River (Holiday Coverfolk, Part 1): Allison Crowe
Cover Lay Down (USA)

"Allison Crowe’s solo piano version... may not sound so different from the original at first, but listen again and the subtleties stand out: Crowe’s majestic tonal read turns the song on its ear."

November 25, 2007

Covered In Folk: The Beatles, Part 1: In My life - Allison Crowe
Cover Lay Down (USA)

"Songwriter and mistress of coversongs Allison Crowe beat out Johnny Cash, Ben Lee, Chantal Kreviazuk and Shawn Colvin covers of In My Life at the last minute. Buy or download all Crowe’s albums via Rubenesque - her own label - and you’ll know why this Canadian youngster is one to watch for the next half-century."

October 26th, 2007

Crowe for Christmas

Published: 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. 

Mistletunes (USA)
December 2006

     Tidings, Allison Crowe (Rubenesque)

      This Canadian singer is more of a rock belter than her countrywoman Sarah McLachlan, and this 2005 album has more of a spontaneous feel to it, with only her piano, bass and percussion for backing. There are no originals, and indeed she even picks some non-holiday tunes for their complimentary tone, so we get things like Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," the Stones' "Shine a Light," McLachlan's "Angel" and the Beatles' "Let it Be" and "In My Life." Regulars include Joni Mitchell's "River," "Silent Night," "In the Bleak Midwinter," "First Noel" and "O Holy Night." There's something to be said for this unadorned approach -- for example, you might just feel comfortable playing this all year round. Maple Music kindly threw in a DVD of her playing live, but you have to be in the fan club to get this.

Tidings: CD Review
Sophia Gurley, The Ectophiles' Guide to Good Music (USA)
August 2006

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Allison Crowe's powerhouse vocals are front and centre in these holiday and cover songs, giving them a lot of life and presence. In addition to the songs on the ep version, this includes: an impressive cover of Joni Mitchell's "River", two Beatles covers, and three additional carols. Ectophiles will find this a strong addition to their collection of seasonal albums. The combination of traditional carols with carefully selected covers is especially enjoyable.

Allison Crowe: Tidings
Cover Corner by Tom Weel: Beatles Unlimited (Netherlands)
May/June 2005 (BU 181)

Allison Crowe’s name appeared on Art Monkey’s compilation “It Was 40 Years Ago Today” (BU177) and here we have her own seasonal album, with some obvious traditionals (Silent Night, The First Noel, a.o.) The other somewhat contrasting half consists of two Leonard Cohen songs (including the fantastic Hallelujah) and tracks written by Joni Mitchell, the Stones and Beatles: In My Life and Let It Be, which also appeared in a slightly different version on the above mentioned sampler. In an acoustic setting, where she gently accompanies herself on piano (on only three tracks she’s joined on bass and drums), her vocals are the most intriguing aspect on every track. She easily flows from dark, soulful and firm to an occasional high note (Mitchell’s River) or long vocal draws (as proven in the final album track, a startling version of Sarah McLachlan’s Angel). By giving Let It Be the gospel flavour it deserves and with an emotionally sung In My Life, the two Beatles songs fit very well in the album’s concept. This all leads to only one conclusion: don’t play this during Christmastime… play it the whole year through!


CD Reviews/Playlist: Dr. Christmas' Radio Show
Dr. Gerry Grzyb, WRST-FM (USA)
Friday, December 24, 2004

** RECORDING OF EXCEPTIONAL MERIT (the show’s highest ranking) - Tidings

“Allison Crowe’s ‘Tidings’ showcases a powerful folk voice, opening with a goosebump-inducing a cappella ‘It Came Upon A Midnight Clear’.”

 Chair of the Sociology Department at the University of Wisconsin, Dr. Gerry Grzyb, AKA Dr. Christmas, is cited as America's foremost authority on Christmas music ~ with an ear to good music of all genres. Each year since 1989 he's sifted through a mass of new seasonal releases, searching for the gems, outside the mainstream, that make the cut to be played on his radio show, an epic tradition broadcast on Wisconsin’s WRST-FM.

Following his marathon (six-day) radio program this holiday season, “Dr. Christmas” wrote to say: “Of over 100 new Christmas CDs played on my show, Allison's drew the most listener interest.” 


Seasonal CD Reviews: Three of this festive season’s offerings really stand out
Joseph Blake, The Times Colonist (Canada)
Sunday, December 19, 2004

What would the Christmas season be without a new crop of recordings? The bins are overflowing with seasonal CDs, but three of this year’s output really stand out:

Young Nanaimo pop diva Allison Crowe’s recently released Tidings collects surprisingly moving versions of traditional Christmas favourites such as Silent Night, In the Bleak Midwinter, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, The First Noel and O Holy Night and truly transcendent versions of Joni Mitchell’s River and Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.

Crowe not only makes these Canadian treasures her own, she does almost as much with Lennon and McCartney’s In My Life and Let It Be, the Stones’ Shine a Light and Sarah McLachlan’s Angel.  

With each recording Crowe becomes a more stunning vocalist. She's got a very big voice, and she's learning how to use it to embody a song. This high concept seasonal sampler is a triumph. Highly recommended.


The Kitchener-Waterloo Record (Canada)
Arts, Saturday, December 18, 2004


Robert Reid


Allison Crowe (Rubenesque Records/Festival)

The Yuletide find of the year goes to Nanaimo-based singer/songwriter Allison Crowe for Tidings.

What makes the album so wonderful is not only Crowe's powerfully soulful vocals and accomplished piano playing, but the inspired repertoire spanning traditional six carols and contemporary songs with a spiritual dimensions.

Joining such beloved carols as Silent Night and In the Bleak Winter are Joni Mitchell's River, Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah, Lennon and McCartney's Let It Be and In My Life, Jagger and Richard's Shine a Light and Sarah McLachlan's Angel, all of which make for an absolutely stunning seasonal album that can be enjoyed year-round.

In keeping with the simplicity, elegance and intimacy of the season, all but two tracks feature Crowe accompanying herself on piano, with a bass and drums added on two tracks.

Following so closely after Secrets, released on Crowe's own label a few months ago, Tidings confirms the arrival of a recording artist who has what it takes to climb to the highest echelons of Canadian, if not international, pop music.


Hum for the holidays: CD Reviews
Jane Stevenson, The Toronto Sun (Canada)
Sunday, December 19, 2004




**** (four stars)

On this expanded version of a 2003 holiday EP of the same name, this 22-year-old Nanaimo, B.C., singer-pianist evokes a lot of emotion with her strong, trembling voice that suits rock, gospel and blues. Check out the opening a capella version of It Came Upon A Midnight Clear. Otherwise, a mostly unadorned Crowe plays piano -- she's joined by bass and drums on three tracks -- and expertly tackles both Christmas classics and less traditional homegrown songs like Joni Mitchell's River, Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah and Sarah McLachlan's Angel and makes them her own. 

(NB In its holiday CD round-up, The Toronto Sun gave four stars to only two releases - Tidings from Allison Crowe, and The Christmas Collection from Frank Sinatra. Other discs covered in this same review included releases from such well-known acts as Chris Isaak 3 1/2 stars, Vanessa Williams, Matt Dusk, and Barenaked Ladies whose offerings each received 3 stars, Jessica Simpson - 1 star and William Hung 1/2 star.)

Tinsel Tunes
Robert Moyes, Monday Magazine (Canada)
Wednesday, December 15, 2004

It's that bittersweet time of year when wishful music writers slip bright and shiny discs into the CD tray in the hopes that bright and shiny seasonal tunes will emerge. But, as always, the recordings under review range from naughty to nice.

And for the big finish, ringing out clear as a Christmas bell, we have Nanaimo's sublime Allison Crowe, who has reissued and redoubled last year's Tidings. This new version jumps from six to 12 tunes, but still maintains stark production values, with Allison providing voice and piano, while getting minimal backup via bass and drums on just three cuts. There are a few actual Christmas songs such as "O Holy Night" and "The First Noel," but mostly Crowe selects apropos pop songs (such as Joni Mitchell's "River," Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," The Beatles' "Let It Be" and the Jagger-Richards tune "Shine A Light") and presents them as contemporary embodiments of spiritual yearning. Crowe has the soaring, swooping vibrato of a dark angel and will give any music lover a sultry blast of Christmas cheer.

It's beginning to sound a lot like Christmas


Soundscapes: Cool Yule Tunes
Stephen Cooke, The Halifax Herald (Canada)
Saturday, December 11, 2004

Barenaked Ladies, Isaak, Crowe put out holiday discs

WITH A HEALTHY CROP of East Coast Christmas CDs this year - from Terry Kelly, RyLee Madison, Louisa Manuel and Urban Surf Kings - one would hope that national and international acts would be able to match that quota, and darned if there aren't some fun and festive recordings that make this one of the better years for holiday music buffs.

B.C. singer-songwriter Allison Crowe also gets bonus points for tackling Joni Mitchell's River on her CD Tidings (Rubenesque Records), and adding her own flavour to it on this spectral recording that is mostly just voice and piano, with bass and drums on only a few tracks.

Besides traditional numbers like In the Bleak Midwinter and The First Noel, Crowe goes beyond the Christmas canon to include Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah and The Beatles' Let It Be as pop spirituals, plus a gutsy Shine a Light from the greatest rock and roll album of all time, The Rolling Stones' Exile on Main Street. It's earned the stamp of approval from the Stones' official fan club, which should bring some new listeners to this tremendous Nanaimo talent.


Tidings: Album Review
Gina Morris, E.O.M. (Evolution of Media - USA)
Friday, December 10, 2004

Allison Crowe is a versatile singer/songwriter from Canada who has recorded a fine Christmas album, Tidings. The possessor of a powerful voice that evokes Eva Cassidy and Laura Nyro simultaneously, Allison sings the hell out of this collection of traditional and non-traditional yuletide classics.

What's great about this album is that while some of the usual Christmas song suspects are here--"Silent Night", "The First Noel", "O Holy Night"--there are also some inspired choices, like the Beatles' "Let It Be" and "In My Life" and the Rolling Stones' "Shine A Light", that aren't Christmas songs but fit the spiritual-ness of the occasion. And with just her voice and skillful piano playing, Allison gets right to the heart of these songs with a clarity lacking in many singers today; although, she does give "Shine A Light" a suitably rocking treatment and adds bass and drums to "O Holy Night", it's the piano/voice combo that impresses.

With Tidings, Allison Crowe proves that she is a singer worth keeping an ear out for and, in addition, she has produced one of the least sentimental, and highly listenable Christmas themed albums of recent times. Oh, and her debut album of original songs, Secrets, is pretty nifty too.


It's a great holiday for your stereo
Tom Harrison, The Province (Canada)
Tuesday, December 7, 2004

Last year, Nanaimo's Allison Crowe released a seasonal EP that she's now extended to a full-length LP. Featuring her stirring singing and piano accompaniment, Tidings (independent, B) is a marvelously thoughtful album that includes a few traditional songs as well as Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" and the Stones' "Shine a Light".


Arts: CD Review
Sarah Towle, The Martlet, Volume 57, Issue 16 (Canada)
Thursday, December 2  2004

Holiday Tidings

I know what you're thinking: Christmas CDs are lame. But hear me out. This one's different. Honest.

Nanaimo's singer/songwriter and pianist Allison Crowe provides a raw and off-beat collection of Christmas songs that she makes her own.

The CD begins with an a cappella version of "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear," which shows off her vocal range and intense vibrato. She pays tribute to many Canadian musicians with songs such as Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," Sarah McLachlan's "Angel" and Joni Mitchell's "River."

As well, Crowe includes other non-traditional, but still seasonal, songs such as the Lennon-McCartney creations "Let it Be" and "In My Life," and the Rolling Stones' "Shine A Light."

And, for good measure, a few traditional songs arranged by Crowe are thrown into the mix: "Silent Night," "What Child Is This," "The First Noel" and "O Holy Night." Crowe's colourful voice, along with her fluid and polished piano playing, makes each track unique. Plus, the simplistic combination of voice, piano and the occasional tambourine proves a refreshing change from cheesy back-up choirs and synthesizers
often heard in Christmas tunes. 


Tidings CD Review
Jennifer Patton, Delusions of Adequacy (USA)
November 29, 2004

Tis the season for packed malls, angry shoppers, and Christmas music. It seems anywhere you go from mid-November on, your ears will be bombarded with techno-carols and muzak versions of traditional pieces. It’s enough to make even those most filled with the joy of the season feel overwhelmed - and let’s not even get started on those of us who don’t celebrate Christmas at all. Like me.

Some may think it’s odd to be a non-Christian writing about a Christmas album, but I like Allison Crowe, and Tidings isn’t any old holiday disc. On this release, Allison offers up a mix of traditional hymns as well as a selection of covers all beautifully enveloped in her unique style. There are no hokey gimmicks and no cutesy kids’ songs. Best of all, there is enough of a blend of styles that you won’t find yourself bored at any point or on spiritual music overload.

The album begins with an excellent a capella version of “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” which immediately showcases her silky but strong voice. This moves quickly into a version of Joni Mitchell’s “River,” which is a hit just for being included, but Allison approaches the song by accompanying herself on piano and with tons of finesse. This is a simply beautiful track that fits just as easily with a spiritual album as it would a folk record.

Crowe’s other more modern covers include Leonard Cohen’s “Hallellujah,” Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel,” the Rolling Stones’ “Shine a Light,” and “Let it Be” and “In My Life,” both by the Beatles. The Cohen and McLachlan tunes are starkly stunning pieces that blend perfectly with the theme of Tidings. The Beatles songs fit as well, but it’s important to note that Crowe really makes these her own, whereas so many musicians come off like karaoke singers when attempting to tackle anything from the Fab Five catalog.

Allison’s approach for the other hymns is one of sheer simplicity. She is complemented on three tracks by David Baird (bass) and Kevin Clevette (drums), but everything else is just her and a piano with a little bit of tambourine. You will find the more familiar such as “Silent Night” and “The First Noel” side by side with the unusual “In the Bleak Midwinter” and “What Child is This?” All are presented with such poise and exquisiteness that you can’t help but feel inspired.

While Tidings is definitely a Christmas album, there is clearly quite a bit for most people to enjoy here. This would make a perfect backdrop to any holiday party or even just for a quiet winter night in front of a roaring fire. If you celebrate Christmas, this is one release that should be in your stereo for many Decembers to come.


Tidings: CD Review
Teri McIntyre, Empowerment4Women (USA)
November/December 2004

If you are looking for something a little different this year in terms of a Christmas album, Tidings by Allison Crowe certainly fits the bill. This e.p., composed of covers of traditional and modern seasonal hymns, is a wonderful addition to the more obvious fare people choose to play at that time of the year.

For traditional tracks, Crowe begins with the classic "Silent Night," rendering its delicate structure with a deep warmth and spirit. The same goes for "O Holy Night." "In The Bleak of Winter" sports a more pop arrangement that is equally inviting.

For modern tracks, Crowe creatively selected three imaginative tracks. She wraps her impressive vocals around the Leonard Cohen favorite "Hallelujah" to create a thunderously moving aural experience. Next, Crowe tackles The Rolling Stones "Shine A Light," a track from their Exile On Main Street album. She brings forth a powerful sense of redemption from the lyrics that is highly engaging. Rounding out the album is a "live off the floor" rendition of Sarah McLachlan’s maudlin "Angel." Crowe manages to give the song a refreshing, blown-out emotional take that, for some, may surpass the original.

Crowe may have intended the album to be a seasonal experience, but the great arrangements and her memorable vocals make Tidings an album worthy of repeated play all year round. 



Tidings: CD Review
Carol Swanson, (USA)
Friday, October 22 2004

What a find! Tidings is an exceptional holiday album, and Canadian Allison Crowe is a stunningly talented performer. Her voice celebrates the music with a bluesy rock-gospel intensity; her controlled vibrato, silken rasp, and powerful projection rivet your attention. This is no casual background music for your holiday party; be prepared to be amazed.

For the most part, this album is all about Crowe's spectacular, unique voice and her exceptional piano playing. Given her incredible vocal power, the minimal production provides just the right showcase. She easily fills the room with soulful energy all on her own. On three tracks (#4, 10 & 11), Crowe gets some fine support from two friends on bass (David Baird) and drums (Kevin Clevette). The artist's vocal delivery is so intense, one wonders how Crowe retains the energy to provide piano accompaniment. In fact, her piano abilities are so natural--so personal--that the keyboard seems to operate as an organic extension of her body, just another "voice" emanating from her musical soul.

Somebody pinch me--the song selections here are outrageously fine--a folk rocker's paradise! To start, there are six lovely pillars of traditional holiday music ("Silent Night," It Came Upon a Midnight Clear," etc.). Then things truly take off--Crowe includes Joni Mitchell's "River," Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," two songs by the Beatles (the John Lennon/Paul McCartney tunes of "Let It Be" and "In My Life"), one Rolling Stones number ("Shine a Light" by Mick Jagger/Keith Richards), and Sarah McLachlan's "Angel." Although these tracks stray from the holiday path most commonly tread, each cut relates to spirituality on its own terms, and the overall package works in grand fashion. Interestingly, although Crowe is herself an acclaimed songwriter, she has penned no holiday numbers here. Perhaps next year.

The artist opens with an unadorned, a cappella presentation of "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear," then rolls cleanly into an intensely moving rendition of "River," one of my favorite holiday tunes. When the artist sings the crystalline, sorrowful line "I made my baby cry," you can almost feel the tears welling up inside. Crowe's wonderful "Hallelujah" is an absolute show-stopper. To be honest, this album is packed with highlights from stem to stern. Every song radiates sincerity, creative flair, and emotional intensity.

No doubt about it--Tidings is one of the best holiday albums this year. If you crave folk/rock music that speaks from the heart, invite Allison Crowe into your home this Christmas season. She's sensational!


Allison Crowe - pick of the day/week
Record of the Day (UK)
August 3, 2004

In August, 2004, the London, England-based music industry source, Record of the Day, selected Allison Crowe's version of the Leonard Cohen song "Hallelujah" as its record of the day and week, telling its audience:

"Bet you thought you heard all the versions you need to hear of this song, right? Think again, because Allison Crowe has a voice to fall in love with. She is from Vancouver Island in Canada, descended from Irish and Manx stock. She's exactly the sort of artist who can make serious headway on her own label and that's just what she's doing."

(Record of the Day is a prognosticator of musical talent, and has tipped people early to such artists as Damien Rice, The Darkness, Keane and The Black Eyed Peas.)


From Fragmentation to Wholeness
Shirley Goldberg, Mo Magazine (Canada)
April 2004

In the final number, Allison Crowe at the piano joined Crimson Coast's Holly Bright for a radiant, rousing, celebratory rendition of Leonard Cohen's lovely "Hallelujah," with Holly's graceful, expansive movements providing the visual corollary for Allison's full, vibrant voice, completing the circle, merging body and spirit, body and mind.


Allison Crowe: Artist Spotlight
New Songs for Peace Project (International)
March 2004

"Allison Crowe may not be well-known now but this young woman has the voice and talent to be the next Alanis or Norah. The raw emotions in her hauntingly beautiful rendition of 'Angel' should convince you of her potential."

Tidings, 6 Songs+
Derrick Marr, Great White Noise (Canada)
Monday, February 9, 2004

6 Songs + is as good an introduction to an artist as you are ever going to get. Allison Crowe (vocals/piano), together with Dave Baird (electric and acoustic bass) and Kevin Clevette (drums and percussions) have recorded a CD rich with lyrical content in which Allison has managed to merge writing skills with vocals that cover every note on the scale, and probably some that aren’t. Musically, the trio is as tight as any I have heard, each rendering a flawless performance.

There will be the obvious comparisons to the songs styles of Sarah McLachlan, and, in truth, there are similarities, but that in no way should be taken as meaning there is any intentional formula following. It is simply the case of two women with beautiful voices sharing a passion for a somewhat laid back, jazz based style of pop rock.

Born in Nanaimo B.C., also coincidently the hometown of Diana Krall, Allison was exposed to music from a very young age. She quickly developed a love of jazz music and by the age of 15 found herself playing to audiences up and down Vancouver Island.

Tidings is a similar listening experience, this time wrapped pleasantly in the guise of a Christmas CD. The songs selected and recorded for this disc, however, ensure that it is far more than simply something listened to once or twice a year. Combining traditional Christmas classics such as Silent Night and O Holy Night, with lesser known or thought of works such as Hallellujah, In The Bleak Midwinter and Shine A Light, and even a version of the non-Christmas, yet inspirational Sarah McLachlan hit Angel, Allison has released a CD that is a pleasure to listen to both during the Yule season and any other time of the year.

True “vocalists” are seldom stumbled across in this age of nu-metal, hip-hop, rap, or any of the other multitude of genre fragments. Sometimes it seems like the art of writing a good song is lost. In the rush to get the next all-elusive hit, many talents have fallen by the wayside and have perhaps forgotten what started them on this path in the first place. To date it seems like Allison has held true to her origins. Only time will tell if this remains the case, but personally I’m thinking there are going to be many, many more insightful and beautiful songs emerging from within the young lady from Nanaimo.


Have Yourself a Merry Diva Christmas...
Rick Dennis, At Large, Cowichan News Leader (Canada)
Wednesday, December 24, 2003

"Diva Fest was a great time. I'm very impressed with the organizers and
the talent, writes artist manager Adrian du Plessis from his Saltspring
Island office. "They're already talking about the next Diva Fest, and
you can be sure they've learned a lot from producing this year's show!"

I met Adrian and his star client, Allison Crowe, at the Nov. 22 Cowichan
Women Against Violence fundraiser at the Cowichan Theatre. Allison was
one of the featured performers at the Saturday evening concert. By now,
the 22-year-old Nanaimo singer/songwriter has earned enough rave reviews
to wallpaper a rehearsal studio. Yet she is refreshingly free of
attitude, often punctuating her sentences with a girlish giggle. Then
she sits down at the piano and begins to sing and you realize what all
the fuss is about. Her voice is a force of nature: bright and warm,
refracting into a whole spectrum of tonal shadings like sunlight through
a prism; bracing and cool, a torrent of emotion washing over the
listener like summer rain.

She has just completed a Christmas CD, Tidings: 6 Songs for the Season
recorded live-off-the-floor, with bandmates David Baird on bass and
Kevin Clevette on drums for her own label, Rubenesque Records.

"I love music and I love Christmas, so it seemed natural to make a
seasonal record," she says. "It was also fun to create something that
wasn't completely traditional, and have a good mix of different songs
and styles on a holiday album."

Soulful versions of Silent Night and Oh Holy Night stand under the
mistletoe with the Stones album track Shine a Light (from Exile on Main
) and Sarah McLachlan's Angel. Altogether, a very cool Yule disc.


Nanaimo News Bulletin
Monday, December 22, 2003 (Canada)

Tired of Top 40? Then consider... 


 Allison Crowe Band,

Tidings, 6 Songs for the Season 

Continuing Allison Crowe’s love affair with six songs per CD, Tidings takes a different approach to some traditional Christmas songs like O Holy Night - and a few non-traditional ones, including Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah and Sarah McLachlan’s Angel. Even fans of Sarah will appreciate Crowe’s version of the latter. This may be the most unusual Christmas offering of the year, but possibly the most interesting.


Sing A Song of Christmas
Robert Moyes, Monday Magazine (Canada)
Thursday, December 11, 2003

Despite the best efforts of malls everywhere to ruin the joy that people find in December's festive music, there are always new recordings that try-and sometimes succeed-in giving listeners that holly-jolly Christmas feeling. Herewith is a brief tour of the very diverse sounds of the season.

If your significant other is of a certain age and uncertain taste-in particular, has with religious zeal replaced vinyl recordings of Aqualung and Thick as a Brick with CDs-then their Christmas jukebox is no doubt crying out for The Jethro Tull Christmas Album. Occasionally jazzy and even orchestral, Tull mostly follows in the faux-medieval folk-rock idiom that characterized their early (and best) albums. Unlikely to win over the uninitiated, Tull will still gladden the hearts of those ever-faithful fans who still dance to Ian Anderson's heavy metal flute.

And although the Medieval Bębes bear the same relation to Early Music that a historical bodice-ripper does to Beowulf, they are still an entertaining and talented octet of singers with lung-revealing cleavage and a sound that evokes highly romantic images of a French castle in the Middle Ages. Their Mistletoe & Wine ranges from "The Holly & the Ivy" and "In Dulce Jubilo" to mostly 13th- and 14th-century pieces or medieval poems set to music by alpha Babe Katharine Blake. With soaring vocal harmonies grounded by the funky music of zithers, recorders, harmoniums and various percussion, these bodaceous Babes are pleasing both to eye and ear (although Maddy Prior's A Tapestry of Carols doth kick mightily their medieval butts).

The infelicitously-titled Frostbite by the ominously single-named Pavlo is, in fact, likely to have great appeal to fans of the Gypsy Kings and Ottmar Liebert. Very much in the nuevo flamenco school of hot Latin licks, Frostbite is distinguished by spicy infusions courtesy of Pavlo's bouzouki and the Ukrainian violin of Wasyl Popaduik. The endlessly energetic Pavlo is very appealing live, but his versions of classics such as "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and "Little Drummer Boy" come off as technically accomplished but something less than soulful.

They just know how to do Christmas in the country, and Cochrane, Alberta-born superstar George Fox is in fine form on A George Fox Christmas. With his sturdy, aw-shucks baritone he delivers a mix of classics ("Silent Night," "Away in a Manger") and a few novelty songs ("Six White Boomers," "Santa Lost His Ho Ho Ho").

Meanwhile, Nanaimo's other musical muse, Allison Crowe, has just released Tidings, a tasty and often-moving six-pack of seasonal songs-and not just the usual suspects. After kicking off with Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," she calls on those least-covered of Christmas carollers-Mick Jagger and Keith Richards-via "Shine a Light," which here shines with redemptive power. After "O Holy Night" and "In the Bleak Midwinter" for traditionalists, there's more Can-Con via Sarah McLachlan's "Angel." Simply arranged for trio and recorded "live off the floor" with Crowe's bold voice mixed way forward, this is an appealing and effective holiday offering.


Crowe on Christmas
Tom Harrison, The Province (Canada)
Tuesday, December 9, 2003

Nanaimo's Allison Crowe has recorded a six-song Christmas CD called Tidings . Crowe and her drummer and bassist do live-off-the-floor versions of the traditional "Silent Night," "In the Bleak Midwinter" and "O Holy Night" plus three other appropriately but imaginatively selected songs, Leonard Cohen 's "Hallelujah," The Stones' "Shine a Light," and Sarah McLachlan 's "Angel." It's Crowe's best-recorded work so far, featuring soulful performances.

Allison Crowe: Tidings
Eliza Gardiner, Mind's Eye (Canada)
December 2003

Good news for Alley Crowe Band fans - Crowe, bassist David Baird and drummer Kevin Clevette have released a new CD just in time for the gift-giving season. The CD features Crowe's powerful voice, this time filled with passion for peace and giving and all things holy. Crowe's version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" is courageous and puts the soundtrack of Shrek to shame. Crowe's choice of tradtional songs are lovely, and her cover of "Shine a Light" brightens further an already vivid production. Even after Christmas is over, this CD will be an inspirational listen.

Tidings CD Review
Amy Lotsberg, Collected Sounds (USA)
Saturday, November 29, 2003

Well, I've been looking forward to this release since I heard about it. So when it arrived I immediately popped it into the car stereo and within moments I was close to tears. The opening track is Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah". I've never heard Cohen's version, but I have heard Jeff Buckley's and I have to say it's one of the most beautiful songs ever written. I am happy to report that Allison Crowe does it justice and then some. Her voice will give you chills. If it doesn't, check your pulse, you may not be alive. It's incredibly moving.

The whole EP is beautiful. I'd never heard "In the Bleak Midwinter" before but it's gorgeous. Crowe's voice is extremely powerful and strong. I hear her and think 'how does she do that?' She's a gifted young lady for sure.

Now if you've read my review of Sarah McLachlan's "Afterglow" you know I am a self-proclaimed Sarah Geek. But that doesn't mean I have a problem with other artists covering her songs. Except when drunk girls sing them at Karaoke.

Allison's version of McLachlan's "Angel" is very powerful. Where Sarah is sweet and pleading Allison is gutsy and forceful. The track is great... up until the last few seconds when it becomes a bit of a "Christina moment" (I'm a firm believer in 'Just because you can, doesn't mean you should'.) The instrumentation stops and it's just her voice, holding a note forever and then almost scatting. I know some will love it, but it actually detracts from the song, for me. But that's a minor issue in what is otherwise a very quality EP.

If you're looking for a good stocking stuffer for the pop piano lover on your list, this is perfect. 

November 6, 2005


Allison Crowe, Tidings (Rubenesque Records, 2004)

I'm not sure how to take this album. Upon my first perusal of the track listing, I said, "Ah, a Christmas album." It has traditional Christmas songs like "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear," "Silent Night," "What Child Is This," and "The First Noel". Then there's Joni Mitchell's "River," which is also a Christmas-inspired song, so that makes sense. But I'm not sure that Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" is exactly a Christmas song; ditto "Let It Be" and "In My Life" (by a songwriting duo named Lennon and McCartney -- I should check these fellows out one of these days). It's a pretty eclectic mixture, at first glance, but as I listened to the album, it all made sense in the context of a larger spiritual theme. This is a very meditative and reflective album, the kind of thing you put in the stereo after you've lit a few candles, turned out the electric lights, poured a bit of wine, and curled up on the floor.

Allison Crowe is a singer-songwriter from Vancouver Island, Canada, who performs her own accompaniments on the piano, which I find refreshing after a fairly steady listening diet of guitar-playing singers of late. According to Crowe's Web site, she already has an impressive resume as both a recording and a touring artist. Tidings, of course, consists entirely of covered material, so I can't evaluate Crowe's songwriting skills from listening to this.

But what of her performance? I must be honest here: I had to listen to the disc several times before I became used to her voice, or one specific facet of it. Crowe sings in a full-bodied alto with a vibrato that, at first, I found distractingly thick on occasion, almost to the point of being an actual "warble." While I got used to this after the second or third listen to the CD, I still find that on occasion Crowe's vibrato creates an unpleasant effect when she hits a note that the disc brings into surprisingly sharp focus. As this does not happen consistently, however, I suspect that this is more an artifact of recording than a problem with Crowe's actual delivery.

This is good news, as Crowe is able to sing these songs very convincingly. In the case of the Lennon-McCartney songs, I've long tended to prefer their songs when performed by anyone other than themselves, and Crowe provides more evidence for this; I particularly enjoyed her rendition of "In My Life," which happens to be my favorite Beatles song. The other big highlights on Tidings, for me, are "O Holy Night" and Cohen's "Hallelujah" (although the latter seemed, to my ears, to be recorded "louder" than the songs surrounding it, such that I had to dial down the volume during the song and restore it to its previous setting for "Silent Night"). Crowe's self-accompaniments are always tasteful and confidently done.

For those who would like to hear a different manner of Christmas album, I'd suggest Allison Crowe's Tidings. Once I got past my initial impressions of her singing voice, I recognized Tidings for the well-considered, thoughtful album that it is.

[Kelly Sedinger]


Kelly Sedinger, Senior Writer, having already spent years amassing enough books to stun a team of oxen in its tracks, realized what his life mission must be when he read that author Umberto Eco actually had to switch apartments because his old home could no longer support the weight of all his books. Kelly hasn't reached that point yet -- his wife, daughter, son and two cats serve as brakes on his compulsive book-purchasing -- but he's doing his best to get there. When not buying books in absurd quantities, Kelly spends time writing, being amazed at the weird things his kids do, watching DVDs, and wondering just where he's going to put the tons of new CDs he buys when he can't find a book he wants. Oh, and reading those books.

Kelly maintains a nearly three-year-old weblog called Byzantium's Shores, as well as spending his non-literary days working happily at a grocery store in Buffalo, NY. Other passions in his life include American football (focusing on the Buffalo Bills); classical, film and Celtic music; Star Wars; baked pasta dishes; and more chocolate and coffee than can really be healthy. Kelly can be reached by e-mail at (buyer) reviews:


5.0 out of 5 stars The Christmas album you need for 2007!, December 12, 2007

Reviewer: xlucent (USA) ***** (five stars)

If the latest crop of Christmas albums by singing cats and Snoop Dogg somehow leave you shaking your head in dismay and wondering what happened to Christmas, this is the album that will restore your faith in the real beauty of the season. Allison Crowe's interpretation of these classic carols cut through all the noise and commercialism and remind us what all the fuss is really about. She has an incredible voice and an even more incredible talent for bringing out the beauty in whatever music she touches.


Unbelievable, January 17, 2005
     Reviewer:    CJ Chambers (Seattle, WA USA) - ***** (five stars)

Absolute perfection. She is one of the rare few who possess a voice such
as this - not just technically moving, but there is no doubt that it's
her soul singing. Thank you, Amazon, for introducing me to her music.
Allison Crowe's voice not only gives me chills but leaves me breathless
as well. It's a shame that talent such as this gets so little attention
while at the same time we're inundated with singers who can't sing and
other such crap. I can't wait for her next album.

 Beautiful voice!, December 3, 2004
     Reviewer:    Holly Harrington "sweethelena" (Frostburg, Maryland) -
***** (five stars)

This album is a wonderful addition to your CD collection if you have a
love/hate relationship with seasonal music. The covers are good, but the
holiday songs are where Crowe really shines. I discovered Crowe's "O
Holy Night" purely by accident, and couldn't be more thrilled. I play
this album at work, and people are constantly asking me who the artist
is. I highly recommend it!

 wonderful...everything, November 19, 2004
     Reviewer:    Dave Kim (Philadelphia, PA USA) - **** (four stars)

wonderful album. pretty much her voice + a piano producing great music.
throws a little pop/jazz into classics, yet she doesn't totally profane
the music such as so many modern renditions of old favorites do. (i
mean, some of staci orrico's covers seem like they took the old songs,
ripped em apart, set em to a bunch of synthesizers, drums, and guitars.
not so with allison crowe) she has an incredibly powerful voice, and the
piano parts are also well arranged. sometimes, however, she does fall
into the pit of going overboard with the "remake" part of remaking the
classics. anyway, it is a wonderful album, moving, peaceful, sublime, a
fresh breath of good ol' christmas time air, and a should-be classic.