Hop High

Crooked Still

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Hop High Review

by William Ruhlmann

Crooked Still isn't reinventing anything on its debut album, which is full of traditional country songs like "Darling Corey," "Shady Grove," and "Flora" (aka "The Lily of the West"), and some familiar copyrighted ones, such as Robert Johnson's "Last Fair Deal Gone Down" and Albert E. Brumley's "Rank Stranger." To the extent there is anything unusual about the quartet's approach, it lies in the instrumentation, which consists of banjo, cello, and double bass, backing Aoife O'Donovan's singing. That's not the most typical lineup for a string band, and it allows space for the three instrumentalists to solo extensively. Still, the group is more about execution than innovation. The players, augmented on a couple of tracks each by fiddle and percussion, mesh well into a band sound, and O'Donovan has a breathy voice reminiscent of Shawn Colvin and Alison Krauss. Together, they give the material a spirited reading that affirms its time-tested quality. So, the members of Crooked Still succeed in being both traditionalists and stylists on their debut album, a significant accomplishment for a young outfit.

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