"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."
"Allison sings with such an intensity of emotion, it's easy to see why she's often quoted as saying 'Why music? Why breathing?'," notes pioneering music blog Muruch. "That kind of artistic passion seems extremely rare these days."
Born November 16, 1981 in the harbour city of Nanaimo, BC, Crowe's home since 2005 is Corner Brook, NL. From the lovely isle of Newfoundland her reach is global. Millions of people enjoy her vocal, piano, guitar+ songs and music videos - on land, sea, and in the air - everywhere from an home-computer in the Gulf to a state ceremony in Tasmania.
"Allison Crowe has a voice to fall in love with," says UK music industry journal Record of the Day. "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." Across the sea, Ray Padgett (Cover Me, SPIN, Mashable) observes: "There are some voices that speak (or sing) for themselves. You know the ones. Voices where it doesn’t matter what they sing. Voices where it doesn’t really matter what instruments support them. Solomon Burke has such a voice. Jeff Buckley had it. Allison Crowe has it too."
Once this phenomenon 'from the islands' reached the mainland she's steered well clear of those manufacturing the record industry "style inventions" (as Joni Mitchell tags them). Courted by the establishment, Crowe, taking a cue from Ani DiFranco and Loreena McKennitt, chose instead to form her own label.
Since 2001, Rubenesque Records Ltd. has released a series of recordings, critically and commercially successful, embracing rock, folk & roots, Celtic, jazz and Broadway amongst a diversity of genres - all in Crowe's own way: Lisa's Song+ 6 Songs (2001-3); Tidings (2003/4); Secrets (2004); Live at Wood Hall (2005); This Little Bird (2006); Little Light (2008); Spiral (2010); Arthur / Up to the Mountain (2011); Tidings Concert (2012); Newfoundland Vinyl (2013); Heavy Graces (2013); Songbook (2013/14); Souling (2014); Newfoundland Vinyl II (2014); Sylvan Hour (2015); Newfoundland Vinyl 3 (2015); Souling (Bonus Tracks Edition) (2015); Introducing / Heirs+Grievances (2016); Great Island Wonder (2017); Welcome to Us 1 & Welcome to Us 2 (2018); Newfoundland Vinyl IV (2018); A Time for Tidings (2018); Pillars (2020); and Six More Songs (2020).
Broadcast highlights include a pair of one-hour television specials: “Allison Crowe: Inside Pandora’s Box” and “Tidings” (airing, for years, nationally across Canada).
Headlining concerts, on hundreds of occasions, over a dozen countries – Allison Crowe surprises and delights audiences solo and leading a band - in jazz caverns and grand churches to festival stage honours before Carol Ann Duffy, Britain’s Poet Laureate, and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, the Master of the Queen's Music. A sensation at the UK's John Lennon Northern Lights Festival, "Canadian angel Allison Crowe gave one of the weekend's most magical moments," says The Scotsman. Festival Director Mike Merritt describes Crowe as "awesome" and "spine-tingling" - adding her performance "put hairs on the back of your neck! She brought the house down."
In 2012, Allison Crowe thrilled with Canada's Royal Winnipeg Ballet singing and playing live on-stage with dancers for the World Premiere run, and a subsequent tour, of "The Doorway – Scenes from Leonard Cohen" - created and choreographed by Jorden Morris with artistic direction from the RWB's André Lewis.
A musical force more powerful than a locomotive, in 2013 Allison Crowe made tracks for "Man of Steel" - an epic science fiction movie adventure featuring Superman. Crowe cameos in the Hollywood blockbuster as 'Singer in Cassidy's'. In a great north woods road-house, where Clark Kent is working for a spell, she performs "Ring of Fire", a song penned by June Carter and Merle Kilgore and made iconic by 'The Man in Black'. “I’m a big Johnny Cash fan. And I’m a big Allison Crowe fan," reveals “Man of Steel” Director Zack Snyder (Dawn of the Dead, 300, Watchmen, Sucker Punch). "So the combination to me seemed like an awesome opportunity if we could make it happen.”
Each Summer from 2012 through 2015 Allison Crowe's served as Musical Director of "Newfoundland Vinyl" - a perennial favourite at the Gros Morne Theatre Festival. Theatre Newfoundland and Labrador's Artistic Director Jeff Pitcher, who conceived the hit stage show, remarks: "No matter where she is in this world, that voice, that conviction, it crosses all borders. She's one of those rare artists that fits into any culture, any community because she is who she is - an incredible talent." Other productions for which Crowe's arranged and directed musically include a Bertolt Brecht / Kurt Weill revue and Pitcher's TNL adaptation of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol".
"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." Clodagh O'Connell (The Courier, Rolling Stone+) posits: "Elton John meets Edith Piaf".
"Power-house intense" comments an European reviewer, "the energy of 'Disease' can easily provide electricity to a small country for a decade." This tune and Crowe's wildly exciting performances lead to her being likened to innovative Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky and famed German Liedermacher Konstantin Wecker. “Gänsehaut-Musik” (goose-bump music) Peter Baier calls it in Süddeutsche Zeitung.
Crowe receives ovations as a visceral live performer whose alchemy melds fun and gravitas. She's praised for her multi-instrumentalist chops and as a singularly talented songwriter - on themes personal as well as universal. Wholly grassroots, a maverick, she's produced a peerless catalogue of song recordings this century. Her innovative approach and freely honest nature is expressed with vitality and virtuosity. Allison Crowe's remarkably varied repertoire is distinguished by an unique beauty and integrity.
It's an oeuvre that speaks to: our daily trials, "Through These Heavy Graces" ("I want to live / but I can’t shake death"); love that's frank, "Wedding Song" ("I will never be the perfect wife / I don't even know what that is"); and shadowed by age, "Arthur" ("Would you hold me / If I disappeared now / And if I didn’t know / Who I was"); characters yielding, "Dearly" ("I don't know whose face I see / But I can see it clearly"); and defiant, "Skeletons and Spirits" ("Take your sympathy and shove it"). There's social commentary - the UNESCO-endorsed New Songs for Peace initiative features "Whether I'm Wrong" composed by Crowe in New York City during the days of Code Orange and Yellow: ("Whether I'm wrong, or whether I'm right / It doesn't really matter anymore / You've put up a wall / We've put up a fight / And now it seems we've forgotten / What all that was for"); and the epic "Disease" addresses such issues as anorexia/bulimia, mental health, and celebrity culture ("I don't want to exist on this plane / crashing down to the level of / depth of skin / flesh and bone / all wrapped up in pages / flashed in our faces"). It's all delivered beautifully by an artist who can be, at once, gorgeously fierce and tender - as reflected in "Secrets (That Aren't My Own)" ("I am not an angel / I'm more like Mona Lisa / there's something hiding in me / there's always something behind my smile").
Alongside her original songwriting, Allison Crowe is supremely renowned for her elemental covers. "One of the best interpreters to come along since Joe Cocker," says Bob Bishop, Editor of Paris Voice. Her fresh takes on such 21st century standards as Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah", Joni Mitchell's "River", "A Case of You", The Beatles' "In My Life" and "Let It Be" are applauded as "truly transcendent". Her vital interpretations have achieved huge international popularity, featured by BBC Radio, MOJO magazine, WDR, and ZDF mediathek among others. Crowe's album Tidings blends traditional carols and hymns plus songs of joy, peace, and redemption from the secular canon to create a modern 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 Carol Swanson, Hamline University Professor Of Law - and music reviewer. "Every song radiates sincerity, creative flair, and emotional intensity."
"It takes a lot of self-confidence to tackle Aretha (Franklin)'s version of 'I Never Loved a Man...' but Allison does and nails it just as good as the Queen of Soul herself. Her piano playing is equally exquisite," says Bob Muller, curator of song covers at JoniMitchell.com "Treat yourself to one of the mightiest talents on the singer-songwriter scene today."
David Powell, Welsh-based DVD & Audio tech writes: "I'm listening to 'Effortless' on (Crowe's) This Little Bird album with my Pro-Ject headphone amplifier turned up about a quarter more than on most modern records. It sounds fantastic because unlike most modern records it hasn't had the **** compressed out of it to raise the loudness."
"Ever wonder what it would have been like to listen to a gifted singer/songwriter from Saskatchewan in a small, intimate hall before she became Joni Mitchell? Don't fret the missed opportunity. There's no need to turn back the clock. Check out Allison Crowe," forecast Robert Reid in The Record.
"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 in Canada's Times Colonist newspaper.
"Soulful. Alive. Joyous. Grievous. Real, true, music is what I want to make," says Allison Crowe.