A Review of the Joe Crookston CD
"able baker charlie and dog"

"able baker charlie and dog"
by Joe Crookston

Copyright 2008
Milagrito Records
P.O. Box 234
Ithaca, NY 14851

This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 5/08
"Kevin and Maxine's Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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Musically recreating events or figures, whether about times and characters historically significant or miniscule, can be a dangerous pursuit. Not because of any threat of actual harm but due to the tendency towards an overly reverential bent bordering on or venturing into the saccharine. Even the opposite can appear where a veritable cardboard cutout stiffness occurs. Joe Crookston not only avoids that trap on his latest release "able baker charlie and dog," his offerings in that camp stand out because his writing and the instrumentation wrapped around the songs superbly bring the subjects and happenings to life and places the listener in and alongside them.

"John Jones" opens with a bluesey riff and then heads into an escaped slave 'speaking' to his still captive mother. This is the first song of many here featuring New York state historical figures and others from elsewhere in the country.

The indelible "Brooklyn in July" is best described as folk noir laid out amidst black and white. Molly MacMillan on piano charges this production.

The easily visual and rollicking "Red Rooster in a Mash Pile" has moments of Stephane Grappeli (Judy Hyman on fiddle) with Django Reinhardt framing (Crookston) and MacMillian again on piano.

The title cut, "able baker charlie and dog" is a touching chronicle of intersecting assignments during World War II where the bulding of infrastructure leads to so much more.

"Hands, Metal and Wood" metaphorically and otherwise speaks of the craft of roofing, a profession prominent in Crookston's heritage. Dougie MacLeans "Scythe Song" comes to mind when listening to this cut.

The genesis of "Mending Walls" is Robert Frost's poem of the same title -- Crookston extends the relationship theme initally depicted by Frost.

A troubled youngster who escapes reality, at least momentarily, by being atop his skateboard encompasses "Freddy the Falcon." To a degree, it parallels Tom Russell's "Blue Wing" song. Curiously, there is a cut titled "Blue Tattoo" here where the item in the title also provides similar memories but not so pleasant to the song's primary character. This one would move a statue to tears.

Engendered by Anne Lamott's book titled of the same title, "Bird by Bird," speaks to challenges in life rather than writing.

Two covers are done, Supertramp's "The Logical Song" and Dan Fogelberg's "Wandering Shepherd." The former is a young person's checklist to rebellion although applicable to those of any age.wishing to not consume compliance and conformity untested. The latter a salve to those both separate and journeying.

The last two cuts, a reprise of "Red Rooster in the Mash Pile" and a take of the polka-ish "The Rutabaga Curl" both recorded live, provide enjoyable insight into Crookston in concert.

Whether it's solo guitar, dots and dashes of fiddle or accordion or loads of piano, Crookston's instrumentation choices choices always enhance the texture. That and his fetching vocals, strong and sure flow into the head and heart.

Crookston is one of those artists who leaves one wondering about justice in the musical world and also someone who defiantly demonstrates the tin ear-ness of the god and goddesses ensconced throughout the corporate domain whose color blindness leaves them only seeing green.

Track List:

All songs written by Joe Crookston, unless as noted.

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