"I love singing for people," says Allison Crowe. "It's a way to connect and share with others. Communication is crucial. Just being able to do what I do, to write and sing and perform, makes me feel not only alive, but incredibly lucky. Knowing at any moment everything could change, I don't take one second for granted."
Pioneering music blog Muruch frames it like this: "There's really no way to convey through mere words how much the music... moves me, or how I want other people to listen to and adore it as much as I do. Allison sings with such an intensity of emotion, it's easy to see why she's often quoted as saying 'Why music? Why breathing?'... that kind of artistic passion seems extremely rare these days."
Born November 16, 1981, on an island, in the harbour city of Nanaimo, B.C., today Crowe's reach is global. From a home computer on the Gulf Islands to a state ceremony in Tasmania - the audience for her songs and music videos numbers more millions each year.
"Allison Crowe has a voice to fall in love with," says UK music industry journal Record of the Day. "She is from Vancouver Island in Canada, descended from Scottish, 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." Across the sea, Ray Padgett (Cover Me, SPIN, Mashable) observes: "There are some voices that speak (or sing) for themselves. You know the ones. Voices where it doesn’t matter what they sing. Voices where it doesn’t really matter what instruments support them. Solomon Burke has such a voice. Jeff Buckley had it. Allison Crowe has it too."
When this phenomenon 'from the islands' reached the mainland she steered a path clear of what Joni Mitchell knowingly calls the record industry's "style inventions". Courted by the establishment, Crowe, taking a cue from Ani DiFranco and Loreena McKennitt, chose instead to form her own label.
Since 2001, Rubenesque Records Ltd. has released a series of artistically diverse, critically and commercially successful, recordings: Lisa's Song+ 6 Songs (2001-3); Secrets (2004); Tidings (2004); Live at Wood Hall (2005); This Little Bird (2006); Little Light (2008); Spiral (2010); Arthur / Up to the Mountain (2012); Tidings Concert (2012); Newfoundland Vinyl (2013); Heavy Graces (2013); and Songbook (2013/14).
Broadcast highlights include a pair of one-hour television specials: “Allison Crowe: Inside Pandora’s Box” and “Tidings” (airing nationally across Canada from 2002 – 2008).
Allison Crowe has performed as concert headliner on hundreds of occasions, in a dozen countries – from solo gigs in jazz caverns and grand churches, to the concert festival stage alongside the Queen’s Master of Music, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, and Britain’s Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy. A sensation at the UK's John Lennon Northern Lights Festival, "Canadian angel Alison Crowe gave one of the weekend's most magical moments," says The Scotsman. Festival Director Mike Merritt describes Crowe as "awesome" and "spine-tingling", noting her performance "put hairs on the back of your neck! She brought the house down."
In 2012, Allison Crowe performs live on-stage with Canada's Royal Winnipeg Ballet for the World Premiere of "The Doorway – Scenes from Leonard Cohen" - created and choreographed by Jorden Morris with artistic direction from the RWB's André Lewis.
In 2013, Allison Crowe appears in "Man of Steel" - an epic science fiction movie adventure featuring Superman. In this blockbuster film, Crowe cameos as a singer/musician in Cassidy's Bar where Clark Kent is working incognito. She performs "Ring of Fire", a song penned by June Carter and Merle Kilgore and made legendary by 'The Man in Black'. “I’m a big Johnny Cash fan. And I’m a big Allison Crowe fan. So the combination to me seemed like an awesome opportunity if we could make it happen,” explains “Man of Steel” Director Zack Snyder.
"The first thing you notice about Allison Crowe is her voice. Rich and dark, it seems to come from a place most singers can only dream of accessing. Then there are the songs. Filled with raw passion and accompanied by Crowe's eloquent piano playing," writes Clodagh O'Connell (The Courier, Rolling Stone+). Hers is a joyous sound: "Elton John meets Edith Piaf".
"Power-house intense" says an European reviewer, “"the energy of 'Disease' can easily provide electricity to a small country for a decade." This tune and Crowe's wildly impassioned performances have drawn her comparison in Europe to innovative Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky -- and the famed German singer-songwriter ("Liedermacher"), composer, author, and actor, Konstantin Wecker.
A true grassroots success, Crowe is praised not only as a visceral performer, but, also as a singularly talented songwriter - on themes personal as well as universal. Her compositional and lyrical voice gives birth to her peerless catalogue of song albums this century - unique in creative expression, versatility and consistency. It's a repertoire that speaks to daily existence: "Through These Heavy Graces" ("I want to live / but I can’t shake death"); relationships dark, "Skeletons and Spirits" ("Take this sympathy and shove it"); and unguarded, "Wedding Song" ("I will never be the perfect wife / I don't even know what that is"); social conditioning, "Disease" ("I don't want to exist on this plane / crashing down to the level of / depth of skin / flesh and bone / all wrapped up in pages / flashed in our faces"); love and aging, "Arthur" ("Would you hold me / If I disappeared now / And if I didn’t know / Who I was"); and candid reflection, "Secrets (That Aren't My Own)" ("I am not an angel / I'm more like Mona Lisa / there's something hiding in me / there's always something behind my smile").
The UNESCO-endorsed New Songs for Peace initiative has featured "Whether I'm Wrong" - composed by Crowe in New York City during the Code Orange and Yellow days of 2003: "Whether I'm wrong, or whether I'm right / It doesn't really matter anymore / You've put up a wall / We've put up a fight / And now it seems we've forgotten / What all that was for". The discerning culture blog Muruch, sharing favourite albums, live performances, films and literature online since 1999, selected her track "Words" ahead of the mainstream, Lorde's "Royals", exotic, Foxygen's "We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic", and full range of 2013's popular music as the Top Song of the Year, saying: "What a lush piece of work that song is! There’s a touch of Celtic folk in the instrumentation, haunting backing vocals and a slow building, seething tension until Allison unleashes her wail..."
Allison Crowe is renowned also as a supreme, ground-breaking, interpreter of song. Her vital takes on such 21st century standards as Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah", Joni Mitchell's "River" and The Beatles' "In My Life" are applauded as "truly transcendent". Her singular covers have broad popularity, featured by BBC Radio, and MOJO magazine among others. Acclaimed Hollywood director Zack Snyder (Dawn of the Dead, 300, Watchmen, Sucker Punch, Man of Steel) is an ardent fan. Allison Crowe's Tidings CD, a mix of traditional carols plus songs of joy, peace, and redemption from the modern, secular, songbook, is an emerging classic: "music for the season and all time".
"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... be prepared to be amazed," says Hamline University Professor Of Law - and CD reviewer - Carol Swanson. "Every song radiates sincerity, creative flair, and emotional intensity."
"It takes a lot of self-confidence to tackle Aretha (Franklin)'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," says Bob Muller, curator of song covers at JoniMitchell.com "Treat yourself to one of the mightiest talents on the singer-songwriter scene today."
David Powell, Welsh-based DVD & Audio tech writes: "I'm listening to 'Effortless' on (Allison Crowe's) This Little Bird album with my Pro-Ject headphone amplifier turned up about a quarter more than on most modern records. It sounds fantastic because unlike most modern records it hasn't had the **** compressed out of it to raise the loudness."
Vocalist, pianist, guitarist, songwriter, engineer, producer and arranger, Allison Crowe, born on an island in the Pacific now lives on another - on Canada's Atlantic coast, in Corner Brook, Newfoundland. From her home-base she records and tours steadily, giving legendary performances that stir together original songs with much-loved interpretations in an organic blend of rock, jazz, folk, Broadway, gospel and soul.
"Ever wonder what it would have been like to listen to a gifted singer/songwriter from Saskatchewan in a small, intimate hall before she became Joni Mitchell? Don't fret the missed opportunity. There's no need to turn back the clock. Check out Allison Crowe," says Robert Reid in The Record.
"Allison has a special gift that is so very rare in musicians today. She is true to her mind, heart and spirit," says Ross Hocker, long-time public broadcaster with NPR affiliate WGTE. Hocker, whose musical taste embraces Thelonious Monk, Bela Bartok and Charles Gounod, calls Allison Crowe's live performance "the most honest, heartfelt, and directly intimate concert in my entire life."
"In an entertainment world that increasingly genuflects at the altar of instant fame, Crowe seems an anomaly, building her career slowly and carefully," notes Adrian Chamberlain, of Canada's Times Colonist newspaper.
"Soulful. Alive. Joyous. Grievous. Real, true, music is what I want to make," says Allison Crowe.
You can lend an ear...