Crowes Pasture strum up a storm on debut CD Edge Of America. This duo, Monique Byrne and Andy Rogovin, present a combination of original songs and covers that reflect their influences and let them showcase their folk music influences. Acoustic instruments and vocals shine in this earthy reflection of talent.
Title track “Edge Of America” swiftly introduces us to the abundant talents of Byrne and Rogovin, two gentle, smooth voices, dual vocals that flow like honey across their landscape of sweet acoustic instruments. Over a lilting landscape of unfurling fiddle lines, gritty banjo, and jaunty guitar strums, the two sing their hearts out with a lofty, floating confidence. The listener is hooked from the get go on the well constructed confection of voices and instruments.
Such a fine beginning promises more fine gems to come. The duo’s cover of Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” presents their talents in a down tempo parade of warm, emotive vocals and acoustic notes, notes that fall gently as rain. A wellspring of feeling passes through this number in accessible rivulets of pretty sounds. An uncanny blend of voices, the duo sound born to mesh their voices, his a handsome sandpapery timbre, hers a angelic firmness.
“The Champ” takes things at a mid-tempo pace. Fine lyrical posturing captures the fancy footwork once displayed in the ring by Muhammad Ali. Rogovin sings of Ali’s social insights with hip delivery and an even hipper insight into where the late boxer wanted to see society arrive at. Not only did Ali thrive in the ring, he converted many minds to a newer understanding of why everyone in our world needs to get along. This beautiful message is translated with songwriter verve and a merrily dancing fiddle line to reach the head and heart.
A cover of 1960s superstar Donovan’s “Catch The Wind” become a lilting acoustic waltz in the hands of this likable duo. The texture they form with their duo vocals is nothing short of artwork. They move together in a breezy motion that invited others along for their journey of voices. Each nuances the song with a certain special vocal application as a fiddle hums and a mandolin tickles the ear.
Crowes Pasture teamed up with lyricist Grant Judd to compose “Grant’s Song.” Bright, rippling acoustic notes snap, pop, and ring out underneath a tapestry of male and female vocal. The acoustic notes travel like currents in a river as the voices sing and hum overhead like something hovering on the strength of its own beauty and stamina.
Another Dylan cover, “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues,” finds Byrne crooning in a sweet, low key manner. Her richness inspires as she moves her voice over a sprinkles of fiddle, acoustic guitars, harmonica, and a revolving percussion beat. Hearing her voice glide over all in considerate phrasing is a treat for the ears, especially as it contrasts well with the puff of instrumentation beneath her voice.
Moving back into their original material, Crowes Pasture offer “Darkness Outside.” This one sweeps every instrument along in a lilting vocal journey. We can feel this song taking us somewhere, the voices carrying us with its message, the drums giving a gentle push, like a child on a swing, acoustic guitar strums providing energy. Their chorus is catchy, alluring with its simple shift in vocal inflections towards more assertive vocalizing. This one could actually find a place on local radio as it commands attention and gives the listener a reward with its mass appeal.
The duo’s Bob Dylan fetish shows itself again with their take on “Shelter From The Storm.” Their rendition moves in with a haunting organ chord or something that sounds similar to an organ. The duo’s feeling for folk idioms is profound. They fill the sonic landscape with a mix of perky acoustic instrument notes with considerate vocal phrasing and mournful vocal sustains. There is a warm, friendly chirp in Rogovin’s vocal timbre that fits this tune like a glove. He wraps his voice around those Dylan words to create an earthy, organic texture. Byrne sings her share of verses with a lovely lilt, her voice effecting the motions of the song.
“The Storm,” a Crowes Pasture original, moves forward with electric guitar energy, banjo pluck, and a pushy groove. Singing of Hurricane Sandy, the duo bring to life the nervous preparations that take place before the ungodly waves hit the shore. Chirpy vocals, considerately phrased, and bits of gritty acoustic instruments fills this with nice little nuggets of sound, adding so many rustic elements to something that picks up small parts and combines them into a larger ball of sound as it moves along.
The duo close out with a rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Tonight Will Be Fine.” From the down tempo acoustic guitar strum and distant, easeful fiddle to the hauntingly beautiful vocals, the duo make this one their own.
Byrne and Rogovin have come with a pleasingly good document of their sound. Produced by Doug Kwartler at Hollow Body Studios in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, Edge Of America, with its mix or covers and originals, showcase exactly where this duo is at in the musical spectrum. They are more folk than singer-songwriter and dipping their pens into the folk ink works well for them. There is an earnestness of purpose in these songs that remind of all the great ballads and folklore that define that genre.