A Decade of Crooked Still
With an EXCLUSIVE Beatles cover from their upcoming EP!

Crooked Still is one of our most-covered artists here on Cover Lay Down, and for good reason: their work continues to resonate and evolve in deep and breathtaking ways, while retaining the core beauty and fire which has marked their work since the beginning. From their emergence in 2001 as a firey quartet out of the Boston collegiate scene, framed around an innovative, improvisational style, and high-energy stringplay at the center of what was otherwise a sparse yet nuanced tradfolk stringband sound, to the sonic expansion of last year’s Some Strange Country, their sound and sensibility have been a personal touchstone, an ongoing revelation of the crystal perfection that can be found in reinventing the American songbook.

But the seminal Boston-based quartet-turned-quintet – equally at home at Celtic, folk, and Bluegrass festivals – is also worth recognition for the influence they have had on their peers. As I wrote last year when Some Strange Country was released, through a decade of live performance and pitch-perfect studio recordings, Crooked Still has defined a new sonic space in the post-millennial atmosphere, leading the way for a rising generation of hybridfolk that continues to explode into our ears and hearts.

And their impact on the world of music at large continues to reverberate, as the sound of the cello continues to wend and weave its way into the folk canon, and the newest post-grass bands continue to emerge and experiment with the beauty and pain that can be found in the songs of and beyond the Appalachian region.

We first featured Crooked Still here at Cover Lay Down in June of 2008, just a few months after our own birth as a blog; at the time, the band was about to release their first album as a 5-piece, sans oddball founding cellist Rashaad Eggleston but with new members Tristan Clarridge (cello) and Brittany Haas (fiddle), and we were thrilled to be able to report that the aptly-named Still Crooked, although inevitably shifted somewhat from their earlier work, was a stellar addition to their body of work.

Since then, we’ve celebrated together as Crooked Still graced stages at Grey Fox and Falcon Ridge, Newport and Telluride; as they released new, transformative covers of the Rolling Stones and more, and revived others from earlier albums, including warm, pitch-perfect takes on Bill Monroe, Ola Belle Johnson, Doc Watson, Gillian Welch, and a holy host of traditional folksongs. And all along, we’ve found compatriots, from USA Today to Sing Out to NPR, who named the band among their favorites, citing their influence, their deliberate craftsmanship, and their musical genius as common markers of their success.

Now, this year, Crooked Still hits their one-decade milestone, and although they have announced that they’ll be taking a small hiatus from touring in 2012 in order to keep the creative juices flowing, and to maintain the core friendship and collaboration which have underlaid their success, they’re still going strong. Indeed, in honor of that sacred ground covered, Autumn arrives with a dual promise: a series of October concerts in and around New England celebrating their tenth anniversary together, culminating in two 10 Year Anniversary Shows at the Somerville Theater on October 14 and 15 (and followed by a swing through the American Northwest), and a brand new EP titled Friends of Fall, to be released on Signature Sounds on October 25.

Having steeped in it overnight, we’re proud to report that Friends of Fall is a powerful addition to the Crooked Still canon. A seven-song EP which contains delightful, sweet, energetic covers of Paul Simon’s American Tune, John Hartford, and The Beatles, plus four well-crafted originals, the collection bears the signature sound of past and present that the band’s envelope-pushing canon has come to represent. Gleeful and somber in turn as always, framed around the stunning, hopping banjo wizardry of Dr. Gregory Listz, the slow, low rhythms of double bass man Corey DiMarino, the tight dual stringwork of Haas and Clarridge, and of course, the beautiful, breathy vocals and arrangements of Aoife O’Donovan, the EP is a delight, and an apt reminder of the impact and depth of Crooked Still as they celebrate their legacy.

And so, as our own celebration, we present a much-expanded compendium of coverage from a decade on the road, in the studio, and at the forefront of the new folk canon – including an exclusive pre-release cover of The Beatles’ We Can Work It Out, from Friends of Fall, which races and swoops like a desperate lover’s heartbeat, and has me dancing around the room as we speak. Taken as a set, in historical sequence, you can hear the evolution from crazed and rearranged to something deeper, something richer, marked by the emergence of O’Donovan as a songwriting force, and of the musical collaboration which underscores their success.

You can hear, in other words, why Crooked Still remains a cornerstone of the Boston Folk revival, even as their members continue to push the envelope, together and through more experimental and traditional side projects. And why the release of new work into the Crooked Still canon remains a cause for rejoicing, even as we celebrate the journey which brought them here.

  • Crooked Still: We Can Work It Out (orig. The Beatles)

    (from Friends of Fall, 2011)

Cover Lay Down posts new coverfolk features and downloadable coversets twice a week, all in support the artists we love. Y’all come back now, y’hear?

Category: Crooked Still One comment »

One Response to “A Decade of Crooked Still
With an EXCLUSIVE Beatles cover from their upcoming EP!

  1. Crooked Still Celebrate 10 Year Anniversary with New EP « Timber and Steel

    [...] John Hartford as well as original pieces and a musical adaptation of a Wendell Berry poem. If you head over to Cover Lay Down they’re lucky enough to have a stream of the band’s version of “We Can Work It [...]

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