Crooked Still: Still Crooked

By: Sarah Hagerman

The departure of cellist Rushad Eggleston and his wild cello last year could have spelled the end of Crooked Still. But newest members Brittany Haas (fiddle) and Tristan Clarridge (cello), fellow Darol Anger's Republic of Strings vets, provide a double assault not to be messed with on Still Crooked (Signature Sounds). The cello growls from the pronounced low end under the topsoil while the vital, living fiddle races across the ground above. They are a welcome addition, and it's a relief to know CS is not packing it in. This band puts Americana under the knife with real distinctive skill, and this latest release pulls off some complicated surgery. Chosen from an assemblage of field recordings as well as contemporary originals and recorded live at Allaire Studios in upstate New York, the results are gripping and just plain gorgeous. It makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand at rapt attention.

The album treks far and wide from the justifiably classic but relatively comfortable fabric ("Shady Grove," "Rank Stranger," "Little Sadie") that marked Hop High and Shaken by a Low Sound, instead stitching compositions with often overlooked old time and folk tunes as the source material. It opens with "Undone in Sorrow," an Ola Belle Reed song. Reed's spirit of mountain woman strength and spiritual endurance rumbles throughout the record. The arrangement of sea shanty "Captain, Captain" is mid-twentieth century, from a version sung by North Carolina folk singer Rebecca King Jones and features Amy Helm (Levon's daughter, whose band is incidentally called Ollabelle) on vocals. Although the arrangement is lush and the melody tender, the thematic concerns of the song feel heartbreakingly timeless - the story of a soldier's spouse awaiting the inevitable news of her loved one.

Meanwhile, a version of Mrs. Sidney Carter's "Pharaoh" features moaning strings that bubble under Aoife O'Donovan's sultry voice, pulling the haunting spiritual to earth. Traditional "The Absentee" winds around a blindingly fast banjo by the superb Gregory Liszt, a freight train on dexedrine, while O'Donovan's ballad "Low Down and Dirty" is a proud new addition to the shallow grave cannon, featuring a gal at the end of the knife. Over the sinewy cello, she sings, often hovering just a few shades above a whisper, "You're low down and dirty and I love the way you do/ But if I stay I'll never find my way back home." All this murder and pick-and-burn dwell amongst the hearty women, hard times and holy cries – the archetypes of American music's collective unconscious. Everything sonically illuminated, this record is a truly mesmerizing dispatch.

JamBase | Between Spaces
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[Published on: 10/2/08]

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‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} Fri 10/3/2008 05:15AM
Show -5 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
breadloaf Fri 10/3/2008 11:37AM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Nice review, Sarah, I always enjoy your work. I really like Crooked Still, initially because they covered some traditionals that I knew through Jerry Garcia, and it is always nice to hear different versions of a given piece.

tourfan starstarstarstarstar Fri 10/3/2008 01:36PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Miles, I for one, am tired of hearing how you "Work" in radio and get advance copies and how late this site is to cover stuff and why won't they let you write something. I am sure there is a reason why a volunteer site such as JB won't let you write .... you're probably a horrible writer. The CD was released in late June. So What? Glad to have the review anyway. Get over it, man. If you are so angry with the site editors and with what we all cover or don't cover, stop visiting this page. Really, stop with the selfless "Woot Woot"s and go read somewhere else or just shut up already. Well done as always Sarah. Love the band and the new CD. Glad you got it in when you did. Thank you. Now goodnight.

SchpecialDave starstarstarstarstar Fri 10/3/2008 07:49PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


With shining examples such as "u guys", the tautology of "street date has arrived" and the fabulous linguistics of ", Late even." in this comment alone, is it any wonder the articles were rejected?

Fine review as ever, and as for being "late", isn't the point of this site to promote bands that take pride in their live performances, and as such tour continually to build an organic fanbase? There is no late, since these bands choose not to follow the hackneyed album-tour-break-album-tour etc. route; there is no one time to get them, it's all a gradual process. Anyway, excellent review, and my parents (old folkies) loved this when I played it to them, so thanks for getting their name out there.

tourfan Fri 10/3/2008 09:44PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

^^^^ Very well put Schpecial Dave .... Indeed, kudos for getting the word out to the community.

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} Mon 10/6/2008 04:41AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

at least people are reading and posting here, this section is often ignored.

I will shut up now. no more will I spend hours trying to write insightful reviews that suck. thanks.