Vincent Van Gogh “loved life so bad, his paintings had twice the color other paintings had”. So sings Jonathan Richman (on Rockin’ and Romance).
And that tells you something about musician Allison Crowe.
A modern lover of music, US-based blogger Muruch puts 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.”
"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."
Born 25 years ago, on an island, in the harbour city of Nanaimo, British Columbia, today Crowe’s force reaches ’round the world.
"Allison Crowe has a voice to fall in love with," says Record of the Day, the UK’s essential music industry news service. "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."
Eight years of connecting with her audience through concerts and touring led the singer-songwriter to Ani DiFranco and Loreena McKennitt as models for creating her own record label. Since 2003, Rubenesque Records Ltd. has released five Allison Crowe albums: Lisa’s Song+ 6 Songs; Secrets; Tidings; Live at Wood Hall; and This Little Bird. Each has earned great critical acclaim and found heart-felt support.
“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,” observes journalist Clodagh O’Connell. When this phenomenon ‘from the islands’ initially reached the mainland, O’Connell puzzled over a defining echo: “Elton John meets Edith Piaf?”
These days, Crowe is praised not only as a singularly exciting songwriter and live performer, but, also, as a song interpreter. Her freshly definitive takes on such 21st century standards as Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and Joni Mitchell’s “River” are applauded as "truly transcendent". Tidings, an innovative mix of traditional carols and songs of joy, peace, and redemption from the 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."
Of her newest album, This Little Bird, (alighting on top-ten lists from the USA to Sweden), Bob Muller, curator of song covers at JoniMitchell.com comments: “Treat yourself to one of the mightiest talents on the singer-songwriter scene today.”
Forgoing standard studio enhancement, let alone the sonic trickery so commonplace, from Nanaimo, B.C. to Corner Brook, Newfoundland, (home-bases that span the breadth of Canada), Allison Crowe makes honest, often live, records that outpace a brace of acts produced by the status quo of, both, mainstream, and, indie, marketing.
Perhaps that’s only natural for music made with a genuine pulse. Eclectic, too. Allison Crowe is the only rock artist of this generation to share a stage with jazzer, and fellow-Nanaimo-ite, Diana Krall, have a Beatles cover join Dee Dee Ramone, Sylvain Sylvain and punk/alt performers on a Fab Four tribute, blow away Pearl Jammers in Seattle, pair Tori Amos, Counting Crows, Broadway tunes, and Celtic aires with original, melodic, songcraft and, joyously, sound like no one else.
“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…