"This Little Bird" contains everything to love about the music of Allison Crowe. Adding titles of engineer and producer to her vocal, piano and guitar credits, Crowe is joined on most of the album's tracks by an ideal rhythm section ~ Dave Baird (bass) and Laurent Boucher (percussion). Nine new originals map emotional and spiritual territory with fresh sounds, encompassing: the elegiac "Phoenix"; the ramble tamble "Alive and Breathing"; gorgeous songs of love and hope, "Effortless" and "There Is"; the jaunty dark humor of "Skeletons and Spirits"; the redemptive grace of "Now"; the raucous celebration of the title track; a joy of simplicity in "Circular Reasoning"; and "Silence", a song that stirs with gypsy romance.
Acclaimed not only as an exciting songwriter and live performer, but, also, as a supreme song interpreter, for her freshly definitive takes, Allison Crowe delivers a trio of remarkable covers on "This Little Bird" - giving her singular voice to "A Case of You" (Joni Mitchell's knowing paen to heart and homeland), "Darling Be Home Soon" (John Sebastian's lovin' spoonful of longing) and "I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)" (Ronnie Shannon's soulful song best-known as Aretha Franklin's break-out tune in 1967).
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 soaring album "This Little Bird":
Darling Be Home Soon
deadman's MOG blog (USA)
One of my favorite Lovin' Spoonful songs has always been Darling Be Home Soon. A plaintive song, shot through with a melancholia that just tugs at the heart.
Allison Crowe has the perfect country/folk voice, as warm and burnished as Kentucky Bourbon, or as honest and gritty as Mississippi mud. Like most of my favorite singer/songwriters she is somewhat of a student/archivist, digging through the Great American Songbook, reveling & marveling at the incredible diversity within. She's surprising in her choice of covers sometime, but she's almost always right
Compact Reviews: This Little Bird
Robert Moyes, Boulevard magazine (Canada)
Despite all the background noise currently swamping the music scene, (mindless music celebrity-gossip, over-hyped reunion tours of dinosaur rockers better left in deep storage, etc.), there are always good recordings that can sometimes be heard above the din. Here are five recent releases that are worth tracking down at your favourite CD shop:
I have been enamoured of Nanaimo singer-pianist Allison Crowe ever since she brought out her Christmas record, (Tidings), several years ago. Her latest CD, and also her best, is This Little Bird, which not only showcase her exquisite, vibrato-rich voice, but also reveals a maturing songwriting talent. From yearning ballads (“Effortless”) to the up-tempo title song, this is modern alt-pop that never cloys even after numerous listens. Crowe’s originals are vivid, both musically and lyrically, and she also does memorable covers. Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You” has a stark beauty while her version of “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)” would give Aretha Franklin goose-bumps.
(The four CDs following in this review are the newest releases from Jimmy LaFave, Eliza Gilkyson, Reid Jamieson, and Richard Thompson.)
Bob Muller, Curator of Song Covers, JoniMitchell.com (USA)
October 1, 2007
Allison Crowe - A Case Of You: Another fine entry in the Joni Covers pantheon for Allison, who first wowed us with her electrifying take on River. This time 'round she picks another Blue selection and imbues it with her sensitive singing and playing. From her 2006 release "This Little Bird", all of which is as tasty as this track.
Reviews - This Little Bird
Trevor Raggatt, Wears The Trousers (UK)
Only a year or so has passed since Canadian songstress, Allison Crowe released her live double album, Live at Wood Hall but she returns with a new studio set comprising new songs and a selection of well chosen covers on This Little Bird. The live discs clearly show Crowe to be an artist who combines technical accomplishment with an ability to imbue her performances with emotion which betrays a beguiling mix of strength of spirit and delicate bruised soul. With this in mind the fact that this new disc is a “band” album, rather than a solo effort, raised some concerns in my mind. Would we see this little bird struggling to flutter above an overpowering rhythm section or swamped by layers of unnecessary overproduction?
Well, those worries were unfounded as the new songs are less presented in traditional “band” format and more “solo singer/instrumentalist with tasteful accompaniment”. Phew! The fragility and intimacy of Crowe’s vocal is retained, couched within the context of her tender and expressive piano playing while, when she stretches out into impassioned proclamation, the voice and piano remain squarely front and centre of our attention. Where additional instrumentation is added it is as a complement to her remarkable vocal approach.
And recorded that voice is no less expressive than it is live. Ranging from pure and angelic to sultry and confessional, Crowe excels at all levels. The cover of the Joni Mitchell classic, A Case of You, demonstrates this perfectly. The song covers Crowe’s full range – both tonally and emotionally – from strident confidence in the strength of love down to low groaning of self doubt and despair. Live favourite Never Loved a Man… remains a tour de force even in a studio setting. The distinctive vibrato which so clearly marks out Crowe’s vocal style is in evidence throughout but studio disciplines leave it more tempered and restrained than live where emotion and involvement in the moment can take control of pure performance technique.
For the most part the backing musicians are tastefully employed although there are a few moments scattered across the disc where perhaps the odd timing or note choice issue should have been addressed prior to final mastering. However, this does not too seriously detract from the album. In fact, on Skeletons and Spirits the fact that the hand percussion seems slightly out of kilter with the piano merely emphasises the subtle oddness and foreboding contained in the lyric. Speaking of lyrics, the songs presented on Little Bird continue to range across the type of areas that so many songwriters cover – whether that’s questions of self-worth or self-awareness, finding and maintaining meaningful relationships or broader, for want of a better word, “political” areas. However, as with all of Crowe’s output these otherwise standard topics are dealt with in a peculiarly insightful, intelligent and emotionally literate way. Once again, on this album this talented young singer belies herself – This Little Bird is no Crowe, she is pure nightingale!
This Little Bird by Allison Crowe
December 7, 2006
Amy Lotsberg, Producer of Collected Sounds (USA)
Well, what can I say about the fabulous Allison Crowe that I haven't already said? I've reviewed her records for years and each one is incredible.
This woman has a voice that will have you shaking your head in amazement. It seems to get better with each release as well.
Her songwriting is also very good. The songs are welcoming and emotional. They are catchy with out being pedestrian.
If you're a fan of beautiful piano songs with strong (but not aggressive) female vocals this is the record for you.
While you're at it, pick up her holiday record, Tidings. It's probably my favorite holiday record of all time.
Luna Kafé record review (Sweden)
Canada - Full Moon 125 - 12/05/06
This Little Bird
Allison Crowe's previous records have all been good, but This Little Bird is her most defining moment yet. The strong-voiced singer has rarely penned better songs or chosen better covers.
Opener "Effortless" sees her and her piano dominate, a slow-burning but powerful statement being made. The version of fellow countrywoman Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You" burn with a steady flame. Crowe gets to the heart of the mystical, intoxicating song. "You're In My Blood Like Holy Wine" has rarely been a line better delivered. "Alive and Breathing" has one of her best melodies and is a breezy but focused song. She even gets away with covering Aretha Franklin's "I Never Loved a Man (The Way That I Love You)" in a soulful way.
Crowe's focused and her art's never been better. This little bird is airborne.
Copyright © 2006 Anna Maria Stjärnell
© 2006 FuzzLogic
The Province (Canada)
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Byline: Tom Harrison
This Little Bird (Independent)
There is a spare backing to this record that allows Crowe's focused intensity to shine through. It's just enough to create a few highlights that complement her -- background vocals that add fullness, drumming that is hardly there but propels the songs, stand-up bass that anchors them -- but mostly this is, once again, Crowe at her piano. She shows an eclecticism that also reinforces her own songs. The best moments have atmosphere and her moodiness is truly affecting.
Artists: Allison Crowe
Jim Kloss, Whole Wheat Radio (USA), November 17, 2006
I have to tell you ... I find Allison's music and style captivating. She reminds me of early Elton John for some reason. I'd love to hear her with a large, full orchestra occasionally although I also appreciate the simplicity of having just her and the piano. (Maybe some of her songs I haven't heard have a full orchestra - I hope so.) I love the new album - "This Little Bird" and the Joni cover "A Case Of You". One of my favorite renditions. Plaintive and haunting. I never tire of her music.
Allison Crowe: This Little Bird
Monday, October 30, 2006
by Muruch (USA)
Allison Crowe's new album, This Little Bird, has finally been released so I'm consolidating my posts about the album into this one. I've been living with and listening to an advanced copy for almost two months now, waiting for the official release to post my full review. Despite being very familiar with the songs by now, I was still quite excited to receive the finished product last week.
This Little Bird includes nine original songs and a trio of covers: "A Case of You" (originally by Joni Mitchell), "Darling Be Home Soon" (originally by John Sebastian) and "I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)" (originally by Ronnie Shannon, best-known as covered by Aretha Franklin).
In addition to her credits of singer, songwriter, and musician (guitar and piano), Allison engineered and produced the album. The packaging of the album is simple and elegant, apparently a throwback to the old school vinyl jackets. The photography is initimate and candlelit, taken by Billie Woods (currently on tour with Allison).
Though I obviously love music very much, there are only a few singers that can really get to me with only the power of their voice. Eva Cassidy, Jeff Buckley, Antony & The Johnsons, and Damien Rice are a few examples of this, and now Allison Crowe.
"Effortless" is one of those subtle songs that quietly draws out whatever emotion you're feeling. Or at least that's how it effects me every time I listen to it. The lyrics stand out almost as much as Allison's voice. The insecurity and self-doubt of the song are very easy to relate to, and as usual Allison's vocals sound completely sincere.
I'm not certain if the opening lyric is the best part of "Skeletons and Spirits", or if it's the cowbell. Either way, it's a great song. The vocals go from the wry and slightly bitter opening verses soaring into an almost wail and then sliding back down into a purr.
I am probably the only person in the world that wasn't in love with Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You". Which is weird since I like most of Joni's other songs, but I just never got the mass appeal of this one song of hers. And the covers, oy. Like "Hallelujah", it's covered far too often by singers who really have no business singing it. Until now. Yes, I realize that Allison could sing the alphabet and I'd think it was a masterpiece, but still. Her emotive singing style made this song finally click with me, and now I'm like everyone else who loves it.
I love the way "Alive and Breathing" starts out so quiet with Allison's solo vocals over a simple tune and builds into a crescendo of voices and music. Sadly, the full aural experience of the song doesn't seem to carry over well into mp3. It sounds much better blaring from the stereo.
"Now" remains one of my favourites on the album. I wish that every singer-songwriter that considers doing the speak-sing thing would listen to this song. This is how to do it right. On the verses, Allison speak-sings, but she sings more than speaks so it flows smoothly with the music and blends into the all sing chorus. It's structured just right and sang beautifully. Of course, I know very little about song structure or writing or singing really, but I know what sounds good to my ears and this one surely does. Especially at the end when Allison unleashes that voice.
"There Is" and "Darling Be Home Soon" are pretty piano tunes. "Silence" is a haunting waltz featuring throaty vocals that fade into a siren chorus. And "Circular Reasoning" is probably spectacular on stage with its guitar, bells, whistles, and pure, lovely vocals.
On "Phoenix" and especially on her cover of "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)", Allison gives a soulful, soaring vocal performance worthy of the great female jazz and blues vocalists of decades past.
Need more cowbell? "This Little Bird" has it. The title song is an upbeat finale for an album that I love from beginning to end.
I can honestly and without hesitation say that This Little Bird is my favourite album of 2006. I haven't wanted to immerse myself in an album so intensely since I first heard Antony & The Johnsons. I think if the music blogiverse has any taste at all, Allison Crowe will be the new artist to be pimped out everywhere.