Music Reviews

Reviews: Crooked Still, Von Freeman, & more

| November / December 2006

Crooked Still
Shaken by a low sound
(Signature Sounds)

The string-band revival has a growing number of young musicians claiming as their influences American fiddle tunes and folk ditties that far predate rock 'n' roll. And the influence cuts both ways. The restless generations that bequeathed punk rock, hip-hop, and mashups aren't content to polish up museum-piece Appalachiana. Instead, they're bringing traditional music into the 21st century-and bringing it to life.

The most stylish, talented, and soulful of these revivalists is the Boston-based Crooked Still, an unusual four-piece that recently signed with the Signature Sounds label to record their growling, danceable, and utterly infectious second album, Shaken by a Low Sound.

The group-Gregory Liszt on banjo, Rushad Eggleston on cello, bassist Corey DiMario, and singer Aoife O'Donovan-are expats from classical music, and it shows in their technique. But boy, can they rock. The cello/bass combo provides a bottom-heavy foundation for Liszt's blues-inspired riffs, and an aural friction results from the contrast between Eggleston, who abuses his instrument into absurdly energetic leads, and O'Donovan, who sings so sweetly and intimately it makes you blush.

The tracks on Shaken by a Low Sound range from familiar to obscure-highlights include a swinging cover of Bill Monroe's 'Can't You Hear Me Callin'' and a holy rendition of 'Lone Pilgrim.' There's nothing stuffy, archival, or didactic about the band. They appear, quite simply, to be having a ball with music that speaks to them. And this quality is the most traditional thing about them.
-Joseph Hart


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