Crooked Still

Hop High – 2004 (Footprint)

Reviewed by John Lupton

CDs by Crooked Still

Under a variety of overlapping labels like Americana, alt.-country, newgrassand others, the current acoustic music scene offers a variety of young, talented bands and solo artists who start with a foundation rooted in tradition, then stretch and mold it into something distinctive that seems to simultaneously "push the envelope" while still retaining the traditional flavor.

Such a band is Crooked Still, fronted by lead singer Aoife O'Donovan and rounded out by banjo player Gregory Liszt, bassist Corey DiMario and acclaimed cellist Rushad Eggleston. With the presence of a banjo and a track listing that includes "RankStranger," "Shady Grove," "Darling Corey," "Lulu Gal," "Angeline The Baker"and a rendition of Gillian Welch's "Orphan Girl," this may seem at firstglance to be a hard-charging, Monroe-style bluegrass band, but then, Monroenever used a cello.

Crooked Still tends to take things at a slower pace, giving O'Donovan's winsome and soothing voice ample opportunity to wring as much emotion as possible out of every lyric. It may not please the purists, but it's an interesting and worthwhile look at some familiar classics. The temptation by many would be to describe "Hop High" as "progressive," but that's somewhat off the mark. It's more of an introspective, thoughtful look backward at music that's more than capable of handling new and alternative interpretations.