"Secrets" ~ Allison Crowe recorded this solo, singer-songwriter, album in 2004. First setting up a home studio, Allison engineered and assisted with production (alongside Rainer Willeke of Canadian r'n'b combo, Soul Station). Allison performs all vocals (lead and harmonies), plays piano, guitar, keyboards and added percussive 'thumps' to the collection. Secrets contains a mix of tunes from Allison's "band days" (some of which are radically redefined), freshly-penned songs, and a couple of choice picks from other artists: Counting Crows' brooding "Raining in Baltimore" ~ the first song Allison performed when she launched her career as a singer-songwriter; and "Joan of Arc", a shining exemplar of Leonard Cohen's poetic brilliance.
Guest artists contributing to Secrets are: Del Crowe (guitar); Jo Lundstrom (accordion); Eric Reiswig (Uilleann pipes); and Rainer Willeke (tambourine).
Tags: Allison Crowe, singer songwriter, rock, folk, jazz, pop, soul, acoustic, independent, alternative, contemporary, live, piano, guitar, lyrical, vocal, seasonal, holiday, Christmas, Beethoven, Tori Amos, Ani DiFranco, Counting Crows, Pearl Jam, Leonard Cohen, Led Zeppelin, Joni Mitchell, Chet Baker, Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin, The Beatles, John Lennon, Elton John, Bob Marley, Edith Piaf, Nina Simone, Fiona Apple
Here's what reviewers say about Allison Crowe's "Secrets":
"Joan of Arc: Once famously described by the Vancouver Courier as possessing a style akin to 'Elton John meets Edith Piaf', the Canadian singer-songwriter Allison Crowe is renowned for her ability to blend control and melodrama. Certainly she does so on this spirited cover of Cohen's 'Songs of Love and Hate' classic, a track which also powerfully showcases her considerable talent as a fine interpreter of song." ~ MOJO Magazine (UK)
April 8, 2007
Review in The Green Man Review
By Kelly Sedinger, April, 2007
Allison Crowe, Secrets (Rubenesque Records, 2004)
This is, apparently, the debut CD of Canadian singer-songwriter Allison Crowe, whose holiday-themed album Tidings impressed me a few years back (after a bit of work on my part). This album demonstrates roughly the same approach to music-making that ultimately impressed me before, with Crowe using her alto vocals to hone in on the important parts of a lyric, while her own tasteful and elegant piano playing backs her up with a minimum of other instruments. The best thing about "indie" music is that at its best, it represents a clean and unfiltered view of music performance in which the ideal is to make you feel as though the performer in question is sitting in the room with you, with no giant bank of sophisticated electronica between you and them, filtering the sound into something that, while often impressive, is still part-industrial. Of course, one has to look through a lot of indie music to find a gem like this, but Allison Crowe's Secrets is indeed just that: a gem.
(And remember, it's a debut album. From this point, she had nowhere to go but up.)
One of the first things one sees on Crowe's official Web site is a quote she apparently likes to give in interviews: "Why music? Why breathing?" That response indicates a driving passion for her music, and this passion is easily heard in her work. What impresses me so much, on repeated listening to Crowe's work, is the way she manages to deliver the right emphasis to precisely the part of a phrase or an entire song that needs it most. She's not content to exist in a boring musical world of "First verse-to-chorus-to-second-verse-to-chorus-to-bridge-to-chorus again." Each of the songs on this album -- nine of which, out of eleven, are her own compositions -- stands alone as its own complete artistic statement. That's an impressive accomplishment for an artist making her debut album. Heck, it's even impressive that she only includes two covers here, especially considering how well done those covers are. (They are "Raining in Baltimore," originally by Counting Crows, and "Joan of Arc," by the great Leonard Cohen.)
The only real negative with this CD as a package is, frankly, the booklet, which contains just a list of performers, a few acknowledgments, and that's about it. I would have liked to see printed lyrics here, especially since Crowe writes her own. Alas.
It took me a while to warm up to Allison Crowe's voice the first time I heard it, but I'm glad I spent the time. She is a considerable talent.
Reprinted with permission from Green Man Review.
Copyright by Green Man Review.
Secrets: CD Review
Sophia Gurley, The Ectophiles' Guide to Good Music (USA)
"Lisa's Song" is a beautiful, powerful song for a young woman, Lisa Marie Young, who went missing from Nanaimo, B.C. in June 2002, and proceeds from the sale of the CD go to help fund the search for her. Unlike other songs I've heard written for such occasions, this is a real song, and not a clichéd, didactic, flat tirade—this is a song worth listening to for itself and not just its message. "Fade Away" is a quieter song, though still urgent as are all Allison Crowe's songs. "Midnight" swings from gentle, optimistic verse to full-out impassioned chorus. "Crayon and Ink" has a yearning beginning, again breaking into a passionate conclusions, as does "Dark Blue". "Scared" is brave enough to start quietly, to build and then again to fade. "Philosophy" starts and ends with the most insistent kind of percussion—a fitting backdrop for the extravagant gymnastics of Allison Crowe's vocals here. Overall, this is an amazingly strong debut.
Album Review: Secrets
Colin Meeks, Indielaunchpad.com (USA)
Friday, January 20 2006
If a voice could be a precious metal, then Vancouver Island, BC native, Allison Crowe's would be 24 caret gold, no doubt about it. There's a haunting purity that almost hypnotises with its beauty. Even as I write this, I'm listening to the album, trying to fight the desire to put down the pen, close my eyes and be taken away to the heavens. Am I waxing lyrical? Yes I am, but for good reason.
When an artist has such an amazing voice, it's easy to forget the accompaniment, but credit where credit's due, for this too is exceptional.
Any album that features a track from Leonard Cohen is certainly heading in the right direction. But when it is covered so beautifully, it makes you realise what an amazing lyricist Leonard Cohen is. Joan of Arc is the Cohen song covered on this album and it's certainly in my top 10 of Cohen covers. It's also my favorite track on the album along with the Beatles classic, In My Life (on Crowe's Tidings).
Conclusion : I'm hoping to hear a lot more of Allison in the coming year. A truly excellent album, that again can be downloaded for free, but please remember to do the right thing and support this fantastic artist by purchasing either a CD or downloaded version.
CD Special: Secrets Review
Alan Cackett, Maverick (UK)
23 year-old Allison Crowe is another Canadian, a multi-talented singer-songwriter who shows on her first full length album, Secrets, that she is a force to be reckoned with. Leaning more towards the jazzier side of roots music, she accompanies herself on piano and guitar
and is assisted by Del Crowe (guitar), Jo Lundstrom (accordion) and Eric Reiswig (uillean pipes). A professional since she was fifteen, Allison is a road-hardened musician and her lyrics and music belie her years.
She moves effortlessly from the piano-driven Immersed to the more organic Sea of A Million Faces. A deep, highly listenable collection.
Arts & Culture: Music
Cindy Filipenko, Herizons (Canada)
Secrets, the debut CD of 23-year-old singer-songwriter Allison Crowe, showcases a performer who could, with the right management, unseat Sarah McLachlan as the West Coast's premier siren. A fixture on the Vancouver Island coffee house circuit since the age of 15, Crowe has developed a style that sets her apart from her contemporaries.
Composed on the piano, Crowe's songs are built on solid melodic foundation. Her pop-perfect voice has a surprising amount of power that complements her impassioned playing. With a voice that pulls you into her emotional states, Crowe is reminiscent of Tori Amos - but without the fragility.
The lone cover song she includes on the CD is from one of her icons, Leonard Cohen. She tackles his "Joan of Arc" and manages to make it her own - not an easy task, considering the amazing version Jennifer Warnes added to the canon with Famous Blue Raincoat. That, at 23, Crowe should have the maturity to make her interpretation of this complex song sound sincere and authentic is truly impressive.
The only complaint I have with Secrets is the minimal liner notes that accompany the disc. I suspect there's probably more to the music than to the lyrics, but hey - that's worked well for McLachlan.
Secrets: CD Review
Teri McIntyre, Empowerment4Women (USA)
"Why breathing?" comes the answer from Allison Crowe when asked about her career, "Why music?" A pretty elementary answer but it is well in step with the impassioned piano rock she casts out on her latest release Secrets. Everything spills forth in Crowe's music; she holds nothing back lyrically and lets her intense voice carry that emotion to the heights and depths of whatever environment in which it is unleashed.
The album kicks off with the bluesy piano ballad "How Long," which traipses through the complexities of waiting for something, anything to happen. "Whether I'm Wrong" is another blues-edged song that is subtly political in tone. Crowe wrote the song in New York about all the people she was seeing who don't support the war in Iraq but felt they had no voice in the matter. She decided to give them a voice, and does so starkly and with great conviction.
Sedate is the best word to describe "Philosophy" as it falls around you with stirring introspection and wistfulness. "Montreal" is all about love—falling in love, being in love . . . It is most romantic and ladened with heartfelt emotion. A favorite track is Crowe's stirring cover of Leonard Cohen's "Joan of Arc." The arrangement is masterful, as Crowe gets right into the lyrics and flips them out to give a vivid and highly charged perspective that is missing underneath Cohen's own deadpan delivery.
Crowe also covers Counting Crow's hauntingly gorgeous "Raining in Baltimore." I was trepidatious about listening to the track as it is my third favorite CC song (yes, I have ranked all of their songs). Unlike the woefulness that punctuates Adam Duritz's vocals on the original, Crowe manages to elicit a great deal of hopefulness from the melancholic lyrics that is unique and enjoyable (even to a fanatic like me). A large reason why I enjoy this cover is that I hear a little of Adam Duritz in the way she attacks and recedes from the song in terms of tone and style.
Crowe's vocal sound is really unlike any other artist I have ever heard. At times, I hear the Duritz influence (check out "Shine A Light" from Tidings as an excellent example); other times, I hear Cher's deep throat rolls or Tori Amos's breathy evocations. There is just such a mixture of ranges and styles that it is almost impossible to pinpoint the stunning power and strength of Crowe's voice when she lays it on top of her stellar piano playing.
Secrets is comprised of many different genres—from pop to folk to rock to blues to jazz—without a misstep among the tracks. She even throws in a hidden Celtic track for good measure. What is most appealing about Crowe though is her confidence and comfortability with her music. For someone so young to just grab onto the music and ride it out wherever it may lead is remarkable and admirable.
Secrets: CD Review
David McPherson, exclaim! (Canada)
A confident, powerful voice, infused with passion, propels the 11 tracks on this debut. Allison Crowe crows with limitless range that surprises one with its breadth from one song to the next. "Raining in Baltimore" is a spirited, yet subdued, reworking of the Counting Crows' piano ballad, while she also tackles Leonard Cohen's "Joan of Arc" with haunting beauty. The ivories and Crowe's powerful voice are the driving forces behind the music here, with backing instruments taking a back seat. On "What About You," the Uilleann pipes add another layer of sound, but still it's only a whisper when paired with Crowe's spellbinding piano prowess. With the soul of Janis Joplin and the tenderness of fellow Canuck Sarah McLachlan, Crowe rocks with her own unique brand of roots charm.
Secrets: CD Review
Joseph Blake, The Times Colonist (Canada)
Sunday, September 26, 2004
Secrets (Festival) is young Allison Crowe's debut CD, and it backs up the hype that a series of local performances have produced. Whether remaking the Counting Crows' Raining in Baltimore and Leonard Cohen's Joan of Arc or unleashing her surprisingly mature original songs, Secrets is a showcase for Crowe's big, emotive vocals.
Backing herself on piano with minimalist studio support including Del Crowe's guitar, Jo Lundstrom's accordion, and Eric Reiswig's uilleann pipes, Crowe offers a tremelo-spiced series of evocative modern rock. There are echoes of Sarah McLachlan's vocal pyrotechnics, but Crowe is forging her own darker, more soulful style of pop singing that adds blues and jazz elements to the mix. A great debut CD.
The Kitchener-Waterloo Record (Canada)
Arts, Saturday, September 4, 2004
Secrets (Rubenesque Records/Festival)
Canada has no shortage of young female singer/songwriters who can belt out a song.
Add to the list Allison Crowe on the strength of her impressive solo CD debut Secrets.
Crowe's gifts as a songwriter, pianist and powerhouse vocalist will not be secrets much longer -- word is spreading fast.
When a new artist emerges, the tendency is to compare her to established artists as a context for listeners. Crowe has already attracted a long list of comparisons -- Tori Amos, Chantal Kreviazuk, Alanis Morissette all seem to me to be valid, with the proviso that Crowe is very much her own artist.
With voice and piano in the foreground, Crowe performs with a soulful poignancy, spanning pop, folk, blues and jazz. All but two of the album's 11 tracks are original with the exception of Raining in Baltimore and Leonard Cohen's Joan of Arc, both of which receive inspired versions here.
Allison Crowe has taken flight.