4 out of 5 stars
Release Date: June 24, 2008
The self-styled, alternative bluegrass group Crooked Still has pretty much made a perfect album; no frills, no fancy studio production, no gimmicks, just great songs and stellar performances that have been recorded with unparalleled intimacy and taste.
Recorded in a single day in a large room, Still Crooked harks back to a time when albums honestly portrayed the way a band sounded in all their glory and shame. Still Crooked is a document of a group that is on top of its game.
After five years and two albums together, the departure of cellist Rushad Eggleston in late-2007 forced Crooked Still to amend their ensemble. Moving from a quartet to a quintet, two new members joined the group in early 2008; Brittany Haas on five-string fiddle (alum of Darol Anger’s Republic of Strings) and Tristan Clarridge on cello and second fiddle (a four-time Grand National Fiddle Champion). Drawing on the new blood as inspiration Crooked Still bunkered down in Shokan, New York in January, 2008 for three days of rehearsal. On the fourth day, with producer Eric Merrill there to commit sound to tape, they recorded Still Crooked live, playing together as a group.
Crooked Still sounds more powerful than ever and the constant play between cellist Clarridge and fiddler Hass is addictive. It is obvious that Crooked Still is a stronger band with the new additions and these new additions are carrying the band on this release. Lead singer Aoife O’Donovan’s voice still has a striking resemblance to Alison Krauss, but her delivery has more passion and feeling than Krauss could muster up on a good night. Banjoist Gregory Haas and bassist Corey Dimario hold their own as well.
Standouts on the album include “Tell Her to Come Back Home,” “Undone in Sorrow,” “Poor Ellen Smith,” and “Florence.”