Friday, March 21, 2008

Review -- CROOKED STILL -- Hop High

HOP HIGH
Crooked Still
Signature Sound/True North
7.5-out-of-10
Crooked Still is a bluegrass/Americana band out of Boston which is immediately notable for one reason, the voice of vocalist Aoife O'Donovan. If you were going to create a voice that said bluegrass it would be this one. She has a distinctive voice that is uniquely suited to the genre.
While I was immediately taken by the voice, I will place the caveat that by the time the CD had spun a couple of times I was wishing Crooked Still had a male counterpoint voice to occasionally take the lead role.
O'Donovan's voice is sort of like a slow Prairie breeze in the summer, enjoyable when you first step out, but on a hot day you soon want a gust or two of a stronger wind to cool you down. This is a bit like that, immediately refreshing, but maybe they could have given us a gust or two of a male voice too.
The rest of the band plays beautifully, Rushad Eggleston on cello, Gregory Liszt on banjo and Corey DiMario on double-bass, along with a substantial list of guest musicians.
Throughout the album the musicians are given plenty of time to shine, with O'Donovan fading away to let the music carry the moment. You notice it on a number of cuts, in particular Orphan Girl and Old Virginia where the music truly is wonderful.
Just a note as well, this is almost entirely a traditional album which in the world of bluegrass does open a huge vault of material much of which is no longer familiar in terms of the original voices who created the songs, so it's great to hear Crooked Still's versions. That said, I hope this band ventures into song creation one day, bringing their own lyrical vision to at least some songs.
Overall this is a fine example of female-led bluegrass, although be warned O'Donovan's voice, while wonderful, is something of an acquired taste when hitting you for 11 straight songs.
A bluegrass/Americana fan will want to find this one for sure. Check it out at www.crookedstill.com
-- CALVIN DANIELS

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Mar. 19, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

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