There are plenty of decent bluegrass/alt-country bands but Crooked Still is not one of them. Rather, this Boston-based quintet is, hands down, absolutely phenomenal. A mix of high-lonesome and, as their song goes, “low down and dirty,” their creative take on the traditional American string band is at turns mournful, warm, joyous and sultry. Lead singer Aoife O’Donovan’s rarified voice tempts comparison to Hem’s Sally Ellyson and the iconic Alison Krauss, but also has a dark bluesy quality that sets her apart from other breathy female vocalists.
Still Crooked, an album name perhaps referential to the band’s 2007 upheaval and reshuffling of members, is packed with virtuosic musicianship. Robust cello, blistering fiddle riffs and hard driving banjo bolster lyrics inspired by the staples of Americana roots music replete with graveyards, lost loves, deep waters and high mountains, and sepia-tinted tales. Joined by the likes of Tim O’Brien and Ruth Ungar Merenda, there’s no question that Crooked Still is entirely serious about high-caliber music, but it’s also clear that they love what they do.
This is a band that demands to be heard and does it so sweetly, so cleanly, and so incredibly well that they can’t be denied. (Melissa Mylchreest)
Crooked Still plays the Badlander Friday, Feb. 13, at 9 PM. $13/$10 advance.