TL;DR REVIEW: EACH SONG ON THIS SELF TITLED ALBUM PACKS BLISTERING BLUEGRASS SOLOS AND STUNNING HARMONIES INTO JUST 4 MINUTES WITH EACH MUSICIAN SHOWING A MASTERY OF THEIR CRAFT.
The Crooked North is one of those bands that could either play an entirely instrumental concert or just sing a capella and both would be equally captivating. Each song on this self titled album packs blistering bluegrass solos and stunning harmonies into just 4 minutes with each musician showing a mastery of their craft. With three singers taking turns singing lead and backing each other up, this album provides a variety of sounds yet remains true to its folk roots.
These tracks were recorded mostly live (meaning all together simultaneously instead of one instrument at a time) and it's clear from the energy on each song. It's a testament to their talent that they could record such complex tunes all together without error. On fast paced jams such as I Can't Get Enough and Till I Hit Water, quick vocal breaks are filled with rapid fire solos from banjo, mandolin, and violin ensuring there is never a dull moment.
This doesn't even cover the songwriting which is quite remarkable. The Crooked North are talented enough musicians to make an album full of cover songs (which, coincidentally, they did!) yet they take their self titled album a step further by performing original songs that stay with you. Foolish Builder opens the album with a jaunty phrase shared by the banjo and violin designed to perk up your ears and make you listen. You Can't Teach A Diamond Ring to Shine ends each vocal phrase with a long slide that is absolutely dripping with a whiskey americana tone. Another highlight of this song is the twangy double bass solo by Jordan Kleiman. Double bass so rarely takes the spotlight and it is done so well here that it deserves mention.
The grittier vocals of guitarist Jon Itkin and banjo/dobro player Ben Proctor soon give way to the melancholy voice of Rita Proctor providing another facet to their sound. On I Made A Bridge, Rita sings over a light, bass-driven accompaniment with a voice reminiscent of Linda Ronstadt before Tahlia Cott's weeping violin melody takes over. Rita's weary tone perfectly captures the mood of a song about the sacrifices we make for our loved ones. "I made a roof of my skin, for to keep you from the rain and the wind, callous and scar tissue stretched and born thin." In an album full of powerful imagery, a line like this still sticks out.
On The Crooked North's self titled album everyone pulls their weight and does it well. They end singing "I've seen heaven and I didn't have to die" and I would have to agree. I've seen heaven and all I had to do was listen to The Crooked North! Learn more and purchase their album on their website.