Painting Stories 'cross the Sky

Crow Johnson

A Review for The Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange by Bob Franke
(rfranke@ix.netcom.com)

This is a brilliant CD by a fully realized artist at the height of her powers. As fond as I was of Zassafrass Music News, Crow's erstwhile newsletter and community-building magazine for songwriters and their fans, I'm kind of glad it's dead so she can give herself the time to pursue her true vocation of writing, playing and singing songs. Holding a standard of this much excellence for her colleagues is going to do us all a lot more good in the long run than helping us get our itineraries out.

Crow's songs are rooted in Southern culture at its best: they are interesting and subtle, and they are about interesting and subtle people. She is a master ironist, and no less so for being full of compassion for her characters as well as her listeners. She paints these particular stories with the traditional colors of American country music, yet always with enough space in the arrangement to accommodate the listener's brain, and always with brilliant little harmonic tugs and twists that entice the ear. There is mystery and wonder in these songs, but not the kind that draws attention to itself; rather, the kind that draws attention to lives that may have been overlooked, including the listener's own life. Similarly, her singing and guitar playing don't draw attention to themselves, but there is so much skill in them that after you've been drawn into the songs and their meanings, you realize that you've been in the presence of a master.

This is the kind of recording that makes me proud to be a songwriter, and hopeful that people in the future, when they talk about great writers, may include some songwriters as a matter of course. For now you may have to write to Zassafras Music, P.O. Box 1000, Gravette, AR 72736-1000 to get a copy (before you balk at such cultural activism, ask me how much my original self-produced Nanci Griffith LP's are worth). I like to think that my review of those LP's of Nanci's may have perked up the ears of a few industry people. If I were an industry person today looking for an artist that is truly Southern yet has a lot of crossover appeal, my letter to Gravette would be the kind you can't respond to by sending an order blank.

Copyright (C)1995 Robert J. Franke all rights reserved
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