The Crooked Jades | World's on Fire

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World's on Fire

by The Crooked Jades

Innovative road less-traveled: rare & obscure repertoire, hypnotic fiddle tunes, haunting original ballads, inspired arrangements & eclectic/vintage instrumentation.
Genre: Country: Bluegrass
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Can't Stare Down A Mountaineer
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4:08 $0.99
2. Sandy Boys
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4:40 $0.99
3. Fork & File
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1:43 $0.99
4. Goodbye Trouble The Soul of Man
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5:36 $0.99
5. One Girl On The Turnpike Road
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4:18 $0.99
6. Girl Slipped Down
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2:30 $0.99
7. Old Cow Died
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3:21 $0.99
8. Ring The Moon
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3:17 $0.99
9. Shirttail Boogie
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2:02 $0.99
10. Shallow Brown
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5:24 $0.99
11. Heaven's Gonna Be My Home
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2:55 $0.99
12. Indian War Whoop/Pancake Walk
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5:05 $0.99
13. Blur
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3:34 $0.99
14. Blackberry Blossom
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3:06 $0.99
15. World's on Fire
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3:18 $0.99
Available as MP3, MP3 320, and FLAC files.


Album Notes


Across the wide seas, distant mountains, and the vast complexity of the soul, this new release by The Crooked Jades emphasizes the lonesome in "High Lonesome" music. Their old-time roots reflect the cultural melange and longing implicit in the shadows of America, wedding hypnotic fiddle tunes to the haunting ballads of one man lost in a changing land.

Reaffirming their reputation as an innovative old-time string band closer in spirit to Tom Waits and Nick Cave, The Crooked Jades create a unique and soulful modern sound by exploring the roots of Americana and interweaving the diverse musical influences of Europe and Africa.

With a new look and new lineup but the same bold vision and drive to innovate and inspire, the Crooked Jades release their brand new album "World1s on Fire" on their own label, Jade Note Music. Largely recorded at Berkeley1s famous Fantasy Studios, this new CD is produced by band founder and leader Jeff Kazor and once again features their signature mix of inspired re-arrangements of rare and obscure old-time gems and beautiful original compositions, all played on vintage and eclectic instruments instrumentation (including Hawaiian slide, Vietnamese jaw harp, harmonium, ukulele, banjo ukulele, arco bass and minstrel banjo).

The album is the first full-length CD featuring the new lineup of The Crooked Jades (reconfigured in 2004): Jeff Kazor (guitar/ukulele/Vietnamese jawharp/harmonium/vocals), Jennie Benford (also of Jim & Jennie & the Pinetops, mandolin/guitar/Vietnamese jawharp /vocals), Adam Tanner (fiddle/mandolin/ vocals), Erik Pearson (banjos/slide guitar/vocals) and Megan Adie (bass/vocals).

Release date February 2006
Jade Note Music
687 Chenery St. San Francisco CA 94131

21 June 2006
Rating: 9/10

by Mark W. Adams

It’s quite easy to imagine curmudgeonly beard-strokers with names like Gaither and Ellerby on their mountainside front porch grumbling that the only real music is old-time music, and the only old-time music worth listening to are tunes recorded onto 78s. It’s not so easy to imagine young hipsters sipping Red Bull and bobbing their heads to the beat of old-time music piped through the iPod buds in their ears. But, I have a surprise for Gaither and Ellerby—and one for Mr. Joe Bussard—a surprise that will rearrange their tobacco-stained dentures. And I also have a surprise for you, too, Indie-rock Isolde, Jazzhead Joseph, Country Cathy, Soul Bettye, Gospel Gary, and Blues Bartholomew: The Crooked Jades’ World’s on Fire is an old-time album that you, yes you Mr./Ms./Mrs./Dr./Fr./Amb. Music Fanatic, will love. This 2006 release has depth of quality, performance, and passion that makes this release a cross-generational, cross-genre charmer.

The title of opening song "Can’t Stare Down a Mountaineer" seems to acknowledge the staunchness of those Gaither-and-Ellerby "mountain music" diehards. But it will also please them with old-fashioned lyrical content, a frailed banjo and a fiddle bridge. Jennie Benford’s voice engages from the first note, and the song displays her vocal power even in this, a delicate setting. "Sandy Boys" follows, and introduces the soulful voice of bandleader Jeff Kazor, to which Benford pairs delightful harmony. With its plucky dual jaw harps and traditional lyrics about the "waitin’ for the booger boo", this second song embodies that "Old, Weird America" captured by Harry Smith’s anthology.

Strange? Yes, but beautiful, too. Almost any music fan will become fanatical about the traditional-sounding-but-original tune "Goodbye Trouble the Soul of Man". Slide guitar accompanies alternating vocal harmonies in a mid-tempo moan that builds to a cathartic climax in which Kazor testifies with the authority of a Pentecostal preacher. Benford’s voice plays a fragile counterpart to Kazor’s sturdy wail. This, friends, is the blues—both mournful and liberating.

The Crooked Jades draw upon the earliest forms of American music—a capella singing, gospel, country blues, folk songs in the traditional canon—but recognize that old songs needn’t remain dusty and dour. A variety of fiddles, slide guitars, ukuleles, banjos, and mandos—sans electricity, of course—are employed to help World’s on Fire achieve a rich, full sound. The album is full of engaging instrumentation that will simultaneously shock and please Mr. iPod RedBull, who may rarely jam to mp3s featuring the frailed banjo ukulele. And though Country Cathy may have purchased the O Brother soundtrack, the rest of her collection is unlikely to include any songs as old as those reincarnated here. Though The Crooked Jades employ an old-time template, they seek and reach new mountain highs.

Classical music fans, there’s even something here for you. Within the 15 tracks of World’s on Fire, there are five instrumentals, three of which display a certain classical minimalism. "Fork & File" is a banjo duet with, well, a fork and file. It’s instrumentation that is unconventional and yet perfectly sensible—just like the fretless banjo/bowed bass/soprano ukulele (you read that right) arrangement of trad tune "Girl Slipped Down". "Shirttail Boogie" foregoes the actual bowing of a fiddle. Instead, it is plucked to compliment a banjo ukulele. The remaining instrumentals ("Indian War Whooop/ Pancake Walk" and "Blackberry Blossom") are both gritty and jazzy, taking a cue from traditional music’s history and its more recent incarnations.

But ultimately, it’s the voices, remarkable leads and harmonies, that capture you from the first listen. Each of The Crooked Jades sing and sing well. You’ll want to grab your earbuds and better absorb the texture their voices create. "Old Cow Died" is a driving fiddle tune, enriched by low-end harmonies, the call and response: "ain’t that a pity!" Deceptively simple-sounding original "Heaven’s Gonna Be My Home" is a stunning handclap- and mandolin-propelled gospel number made even more heavenly by creatively-placed children’s harmonies.

Certainly, World’s on Fire is full of diverse surprises, but nothing can prepare the listener for the final track, from which the album takes its name. Goosebump-inducing, haunting, and apocalyptic, "World’s on Fire" creates an atmosphere worthy of its title. Emerging from a multi-layered recording of whispered prayers in an unknown language, a plankwalk bass gives way to marching handclaps and the incessant background bass vocal: "Judgment/ Judgment/ Judgment..." Jennie Benford takes the lead, enunciating the song’s title with increasing alacrity, then calling Gabriel whole-heartedly while a slide guitar proclaims the building apocalypse. The pounding resonance of the word "Judgment" creates a gospel atmosphere, although a distinctly ominous one. Benford’s soaring proclamations of "sinners rise!" paired with fire-and-brimstone descriptions of "stars fall/moon bleeds/elements melting" could be read with multilayered meaning, especially considered in contrast to those initial, "foreign," intonations. This interpretation therefore seems to cast a burning light on that destructive duality between what is called ‘good’ and ‘evil,’ what is ‘right’ and who is ‘wrong’—and just who is to make that judgment in an increasingly oppositional world. The song is also a reminder, like the album as a whole, that old songs can be born again, and that they can appeal to a broad new generation of listeners.

CD Review February 2006
Maverick Magazine

The Crooked Jades

World's On Fire

Jade Note Music CJ206

5 out of 5 stars

There is a magical moment near the end of Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? where David Holt leads a procession through the town as John Hartford1s Indian War Whoop sets the pace and notorious bank robber "Babyface" Nelson, defiantly struts his stuff.

It is so fleeting, it's a tease.

With this new CD, The Crooked Jades redress the balance.

If you felt cheated too, you need to get this in order to feel the true force of the piece.

The Crooked Jades always manage to stay head and shoulders above their contemporaries and are among a few purveyors of old-time who can make the hairs stand on the back of the neck.

No one ever properly explained what it is that makes that happen.

Some of the most stirring music ever recorded was produced by groups of women who sat around the same table rhythmically beating newly-woven cloth to soften it and chanting call and response verses in their Gaelic tongue.

When you hear those early field recordings of "Waulking" songs captured in the Western Isles, the hairs always stand to attention. It1s easy to imagine that native American Indians were responsible. Somehow there is a common thread primeval, elemental.

These days there are some old-time musicians who try to recreate the simple essence of the genre while others set out to put modern spin in place.

If you imagine bands like Nickel Creek or Old Crow Medicine Show are made of solid, sparkling silver with a twinkle as seductive as Tony1s Curtis1s wink, The Crooked Jades are more centuries 'old bronze with a natural air-worn patina and all the mystery of the Mona Lisa's smile.

These players have tapped into a very tasty niche of their own, drenched with the sweat of the centuries and reinvented as something strikingly unique and sophisticated.

Invariably, when people write things about this band, they end up resorting to almost different language or trying very hard to find terms which are crusty and glowing enough all at the same time to adequately do them justice.

"Otherworldly", they say, "edgy", "dark and hypnotic", "devotional", "fascinating", "pleasureSˇand some discomfort too", "wild, woolly and unpredictable".

SˇAll true, but there1s a soul to this band that digs deeper into the past.

If I knew how to speak in tongues, that would maybe be the most fitting way to describe what they do so well.

That they are innovative pickers with equal measures of attitude and respect and play their music on an array of vintage instruments, helps to add a distinctive "note"; that Jeff Kazor has a depth to his writing which is matched by few others, with the possible exception of Gillian Welch, is another factor.

That all five, Kazor, Jennie Benford, Erik Pearson, Megan Adie and Adam Tanner gel so well is the biggest gift of all.

This time around, they have surpassed previous glories with a stunning selection of material, tapping into the very heart of American folk and treating us to the kind of perfect all-round performance that saw them winning a standing ovation in the traditional tent at MerleFest 2005.

Looking for pure spirit of the southern Appalachians, with flailing gut-strung banjos, aching fiddle and vocals so authentic, they could be from the archives?

How about a real rousing spiritual shot through with enough raw energy to have a whole hall of revivalists sh-sh-shaking in their shoes?

It1s all there to keep existing fans enthralled.

But, this time around The Crooked Jades show they have other subtleties that have previously been kept under wraps.

The selection is filled with surprises, the most impressive of which is Ring The Moon with a gentle string quartet feel and roots tapping into the Elizabethan madrigal, but a contemporary Philip Glass-like finish. One Girl On The Turnpike Road is another that gets an intriguing almost old-English treatment that is stunningly effective.

Kazor1s mournful voice is put to best use on the hauntingly beautiful Shallow Brown. He1s in great form too for the hugely satisfying Heaven1s Gonna Be My Home.

The bluesy Goodbye Trouble, stomping solidly with a chain gang throb, leaves everything else in this vein that has been attempted in recent times, firmly in the shade.

One brilliant track follows another as they gather such a head of steam that by the end, the only thing to do is stick it back on and start all over again and again, and again.

The Crooked Jades have already produced four very fine albums and a recent 5-track CD that is a splendidly-paced sampler.

WORLD1S ON FIRE is their best ever. Essential listening. LT


Today's post is really courtesy of San Francisco reader Brian who saw the band Crooked Jades one night as part of SF Bluegrass and Old Time Music Festival. Brian said it best in his email to me:
"Last night at one of the first shows of the SF Bluegrass and Old Time Music Fest, the Crooked Jades blew the doors off the place. Think Emmylou singing with Nick Cave. I've never seen anything like it. From straight Bluegrass to Negro Spirituals, to Sea Shanties in three moves."
Crooked Jades are within the bluegrass tradition but are more often compared to Tom Waits and Nick Cave than to Bill Monroe or Ralph Stanley. All of their influences can be heard on the song below from the intro sounds of a Vietnamese jaw harp to the deep resonant vocals of leader Jeff Kazor to the picking heard throughout the song.



to write a review


I first heard the Crooked Jades on a blog. Bought the newest cd and it is awesome! Just what I like to listen to doing the dishes. Will definitely buy another.

Larry Bethune

Fantastic music. I love the natural, pure approach to all these songs.
Just a short note. I bought this CD because I heard "Challo Brown" on Radio Scotland (Travelling Folk) and thought the rendition was was both eerie and spellbinding. Never heard of Crooked Jade. What a pleasant discovery. The variety of music on this CD makes it one I have already played ten times. captivating and takes my imagination back to a time when ceilidhs reigned in rural areas of the US such as the Cape Fear River valley of NC. I will buy more from both Crooked Jade and CD Baby.

Roy McCarthy

Wonderful. Like nothing I have heard.
The opening track is just wonderful, haunting. The whole album has this other wordly quality to it. Can't think of anything else that it sounds like. Beautiful. And the cover photo is fascinting.

Joe Ross

Reinvention and artistic foray into very seductive and adventurous old-time terr
Playing Time – 54:57 -- Old-time music, by nature, balances a certain amount of repetition and rhythm with innovative melodic forays. Still claiming that “Old Time is Not a Crime,” this San Francisco-based band formed by guitarist Jeff Kazor in 1994 now has a decade of experience and numerous albums under their belts. Since their last album, however, the Jades appear to have undergone some personnel changes. Gone are Lisa Berman, Tom Lucas, Stephanie Prausnitz, and Dave Bamberger. Now joining Kazor are Jennie Benford, Adam Tanner, Erik Pearson and Megan Adie. While the band lineup has changed, both Pearson and Tanner have been associated with the band since the early days, and both appear on most of the past Crooked Jades recordings.

The various instruments consistently played include guitar, fiddle, banjo, fiddle, and bass. Some songs incorporate jaw harp, piano, banjo uke, soprano uke, and slide. Fiddler Bruce Bowers appears as a guest on “Blur” and “Shallow Brown,” while Bruce Kaphan’s piano also appears in the latter. Kaphan also recorded and mixed the album. The band’s multi-instrumental prowess is a continuing strength, as is their spirited vocals.

The Crooked Jades draw from both traditional and original material. Songs from both sources sit nicely side by side, the contrasts providing considerable diversity for our listening enjoyment. Kazor’s “Goodbye Trouble The Soul of Man” makes a poignant statement, and Benford’s “Can’t Stare Down A Mountaineer” implies that the hardy breed of old-time mountaineer (or musician) is stalwart, brawny and strong. Many of their songs have a mesmerizing feeling, almost an impression of “new-age” sensibility that bewilders our consciousness to some degree. A standard chantey like “Shallow Brown” is infused with new life with a pensive arrangement that turns the song into a reflective lament. “Blackberry Blossom” is unlike any standard rendition of that traditional offering. The medley of “Indian War Whoop/Pancake Walk” has plenty of emotion, while the next track “Blur” has plenty of emotive sentience. There are distinct differences as the juxtaposition of the old and new take shape. The Crooked Jades recorded three albums for Copper Creek, then began producing their own independent releases. “World’s on Fire” is an enthralling addition to their recorded legacy. The Crooked Jades’ interpretation of the old-time genre is a reinvention and artistic foray into very seductive and adventurous territory. Balancing sophistication with rusticity is no easy matter, and this band rises nicely to the challenge. And they succeed splendidly. (Joe Ross, Roseburg, OR.)


Five stars is not enough. this is the best cd i have heard for years- absolutely outstanding- can't begin to describe it - you have to hear it !

Anna Wilson

Beautiful, timeless, harmony and melody intertwining up my tingling spine.
Liked it immediately - felt like slipping into a warm bath.


Old Time down the line !
An excellent collection of tunes old and in the way.
Great sounds, sonic mastery, I would really like some info on mics etc used for this CD as it manages that most trickey of balancing acts of being authentic sounding without sacrificing quality.


I heard a track on the local bluegrass station and was intrigued enough to purchase the album. I was not disappointed. It's a nice and provocative change from the run of the mill album.


Once again a magnificent cd from the crooked jades. Absolutely love it. No one does old time like the crooked jades. Buy it, you wont be disappointed

brian pierce

Neo Old Time is Here!
In my cubicle I have their sticker: Old Time is not a Crime.

Yet to some, the Crocked Jade approach must be examined in the trial of definitions, the belief of what Old Time is vs. What it will be.

If Uncle Earl, Old Crow Medicine Show and the Crooked Jades are really considered Old Time, I submit to the jury that no longer do we have to wonder what the early 1900 must have sounded like in a real room instead of the scratched out low fidelity recordings of the time. Now we have proof what acoustic instruments did and do sound like. Sophistication of sound isn’t new, just the recording technique. But as we often think of Communist Countries in black and white, our perception of old time is based upon thin washed out hollow primitive recordings that could not capture the real sound and the real approach to the music of the day. These three bands are heroes in a roots revival movement, who break the mold of scripted almost religious indoctrination of a single-minded old time execution in OT jam sessions where invention is punished. The music of the day changed from artist to artist, and it is a pleasure to see these bands take the mantle of Old Time and make it their own. Credit to the historians who preserve, but credit as well to those who create new upon the foundation of the past, to make it relevant to today, changing as the artists would originally have done to own their own music.

-- The Crooked Jades recording World on Fire is almost beyond description. Being the perfect foil to the Steve Martin quote: Talking about Music is like Dancing about Architecture. Each song has its connection and basis, in fact steeped, in Old Time sound. They have done their homework and now can legitimately claim to Own their sound through the hard work of building on then expressing their own true interpretation of Old Time that is both beyond Ancient and beyond Modern. --

Analogies to Nick Cave and Tom Waits are meaningless, although we demand to have approximations to their sound. Rather I hear clearly moods and places like no other music I’ve heard. Incredibly, the mood or place, which is so completely authentic, changes so dramatically from track to track. The players so complement each other resulting in a sound that is extraordinary. If I were to propose and analogy of sound, Laurie Anderson comes to mind as each song is a piece without wasted movement, totally efficient, patient, and patently unique.

It is a pleasure to see a sound, style and skill develop over many recordings, World on Fire is their pinnacle work, to be celebrated as a masterpiece.