Listen Up: Wednesday, February 2, 2005
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Crooked Still

Hop High (Footprint Records)

By Tom Geddie

Both traditional bluegrass and youth-driven “newgrass” are at least on the pop-consciousness radar these days thanks to the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack. A lot of purists don’t care for the newer, hybrid sound, but innovators are, by the very nature of their music, shaping the genre’s future while helping preserve the old standards.


More information: Crooked Still — a band that could be the poster child for mishmash-grass — is a fine example.
While Aoife O’Donovan’s vocals and Gregory Liszt’s banjo are both strong, the bowed instruments — cello and double-bass — set this New England-based group apart, allowing the outfit to interpret traditional bluegrass and folk songs, such as Robert Johnson’s “Last Fair Deal Gone Down” and Gillian Welch’s “Orphan Girl,” via sonic elements that fall somewhere between jazz and classical. Various friends provide supporting vocals, fiddle, and percussion on a few of the 11 songs.
O’Donovan, a New England Conservatory of Music grad, doesn’t show a lot of range, but her voice is appropriately “lonesome,” suiting the genre. Liszt, pursuing his Ph.D. in biology at MIT, plays the banjo real fast and real well. (O’Donovan and Liszt also perform with The Wayfaring Strangers.)
The other two musicians are equally prolific. Cellist Rushad Eggleston, a Berklee School of Music student, is part of the Grammy-nominated Fiddlers 4. Double-bassist Corey DiMario, like O’Donovan, graduated from the New England Conservatory. Their respectful but creative approaches produce new, deeply felt iterations of plain, simple songs like the ones on Hop High.
— Tom Geddie


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