Crooked Still has always played an expansive form of stringband music. Though most bluegrass traditionalists would frown at using that genre to describe the band's work, the songs are decidedly rooted in Bill Monroe's craft. Music, though, like any form of expression, is chiefly a reflection of the things which have inspired the person or people making it. And people have varied tastes. Genre qualifiers, then, generally exist for the sake of criticism and discussion, but for many artists are just a set of abstract and arbitrary words.
As Crooked Still's lead singer Aoife O'Donovan told Michael Bialas in their recent interview, her band is "playing music that comes from bluegrass." Indeed, it's the unflagging creativity and ingenuity of bands like Crooked Still, who feel more informed and inspired by tradition than beholden to it, which brings us the most interesting and provocative music.
And so it is that - I'll just say it now - Crooked Still's Some Strange Country (Signature Sounds) is easily one of the best records of 2010 so far. If you've yet to hear it, I'd recommend perhaps remedying that.
In the meantime, we have this excellent outtake track to share with you. The tune didn't make it onto Some Strange Country, but is well worth a listen. Apparently it's a tribute of sorts to the Red Stick Ramblers (whose My Suitcase Is Always Packed release from last year is worth your time, too).
There's more where that came from. Signature Sounds is offering a free six-song sampler if you want to sign up for their mailing list. Just go to their website to sign up, and you'll receive the following tracks:
Joy Kills Sorrow - All The Buildings
Patty Larkin (with Suzanne Vega) - Pablo Neruda
Crooked Still - Calvary
Chris Smither - Time Stands Still
Caroline Herring - The Dozens
Butcher Holler (featuring Eilen Jewell) - Fist City