by Kalia Yeagle
There is a uniquely beautiful energy to all that Crooked Still does, and that holds true for their fourth and latest album Some Strange Country. The band is fueled by singer Aoife O’Donovan, bassist Corey DiMario, banjo player Greg Liszt, cellist Tristan Clarridge, and fiddler Brittany Haas. Crooked Still’s sound can hardly be characterized as bluegrass, nor any standard genre for that matter. They have established their sound as one that blurs borders; their music is at once complex and simple, haunting and sweet, and they excel at bringing old into the new. As fiddler Brittany Haas commented, “the music is not just ‘alternative bluegrass’ or whatever people used to call it. It’s at another level now: artful, but still grounded in that funky, string band thing.”
Some Strange Country keeps the wistfulness from previous albums, but feels perhaps less grim. They worked with Grammy award winning producer and engineer Gary Paczosa (Alison Krauss and Union Station, Tim O’Brien, Dolly Parton) and the results include vast and intricate layers of strings and occasional interesting vocal distortion. Several songs feature guest vocals from heroes Ricky Skaggs and Tim O’Brien, up-and-coming Sarah Jarosz, and original Bearfoot member Annalisa Tornfelt.
If you are meant to be a Crooked Still fan, they will undoubtedly hook you after only a few tunes. Their sound is infective and invigorating, and they give listeners a thoroughly refreshing story of tradition. It swells with strings, is punctuated by tastefully creative banjo, and is artfully sewn together by the sincerest of vocals. Some Strange Country is richly layered, evocative, and well worth a listen.
Signature Sounds Recording