With a professed liking for Pearl Jam amongst a delightfully eclectic range, seventh track On the Air on this latest from Allison Crowe certainly echoes the chorus from PJ’s Garden in its own chorus. It is a track where Crowe’s vocals are also at their more vibrant – and by that I also mean her remarkable vibrato - but it is the opening five tracks that so delight for me, a gentler [this is a relative term] vocal, controlled to a subtle dynamic, and often accompanied by beautiful vocal harmonies from Billy Woods and Céline Greb, the latter adding solo layers of emotive cello.
And emotive is a key expression for all of the music on this fine album, Crowe investing so much of this in her singing – for example the piano based Going Home Tonight – and this is a natural consequence of the power in that voice and the passion in her performing. I don’t believe Crowe ever sings a song without an absolute personal commitment.
Mostly self-penned, there are also arrangements of traditional songs like Tarry Trousers that gets a spirited folk delivery with pretty vocal harmonies, and one cover that has appeared on her album Spiral, Annie Lennox’s Why which Crowe sings with what seems like restraint compared with Lennox, but this is actually a performance that rises to a rousing climax.
Opener You All Haunt Me, with simple but beautiful acoustic guitar from Woods and cello by Greb, is exquisite, especially when all also harmonise vocally, Crowe as songwriter and singer demonstrating for me the perfect amalgam of her considerable skills – without the need to push forcefully, the emotive impact here in its poignant self-reflection. An outstanding song. Next Arthur, with Allison on piano, again engages with sweet vocal harmonies, Crowe’s voice emerging from these to assert its affecting power.
This is an album that should and could develop a greater audience for Crowe beyond those who already adore her. You can buy it at the ridiculous price of $8 here.