Other Halves is an EP with only four songs. The EP starts with two original Americana songs that are very fine. But the kicker is Blink. The song opens with just stand-up bass, and the listener is wondering where this will go. Are things about to turn jazzy? But then the drums and organ come in, and things become clear: this is reggae! There are no other instruments on this one, but none are needed. Crooks comes in on vocals, and it just gets better. She sings Blink in a sultry bluesy alto. It may not sound like these pieces should fit together, but do they ever. It doesn’t hurt that the lyrics are a beautifully written meditation on the passing of time, but that’s just a bonus.
Deborah Crooks: Press
There are some artists who grew up with their feet firmly planted in the tradition of country and blues, and while some may argue that to stay in the past is to look backwards, Deborah Crooks makes the case for a return to the roots of rock in her latest record, It’s All Up To You.
This doesn’t mean the album is stuck in the past. Instead, Crooks uses her skills to build an experience that will separate her from the country pop acts growing more popular each day. Her music’s more in the vein of Johnny Cash than Carrie Underwood. With the main focus on her voice, lyrics, and guitar playing, Crooks’ latest makes for a relaxing afternoon listen.
The record starts with “Let’s Move,” a slow burner with an explosive chorus. A steady, thumping guitar strum opens the track, accompanied by an upbeat piano. While mid-paced verse will keep your attention, the chorus is an electric eruption, a shot of adrenaline that kicks all of the instrumentation up. The piano’s pushed to the forefront and the guitar gains volume. It’s an unexpected change of pace that separates the song from the rest of the album, which is more restrained.
“Grandma Mission Blues” is a decent follow-up, with light drum patterns and a whistling organ conjuring images of an old-fashioned steam train. But Crooks’ highest point comes in the title track. What sounds like congas and a flamenco guitar create a slow Latin feel. The mood takes a sudden shift when classical, dark strings fill in the background and Crooks’ tired, desperate voice breaks through. She sings like she’s trying to get through to someone who just won’t listen. While she really wants a change to happen, she leaves the decision up to the person she’s confronting. Hints of hope are found beneath the surface of her exhausted resignation that there’s not much more she can do. Crooks’ worn-out vocals and the strings transform “It’s All Up To You” from average to excellent, creating a deep emotional and musical piece.
The next two tracks, “Falling” and “Someone Needs You Now”, work as a pair though they’re very different in music and mood. The former is a happy affair. The keys throughout the song create a light, poppy feel while the lyrics are full of lively images, such as allusions to birds and a brand-new day. It’s a short, enjoyable love song with the simple chorus of “I’m falling. Catch me.” “Falling” is not overtly lovey-dovey, but there’s no mistaking the intended romance. The latter of the pair is a sequel of sorts, a darker second act to its bright counterpart. Complete with the sounds of a slow horse gallop, “Someone Needs You Now” is the most Western song on the album. It’s another romantic song, but the optimism has eroded into desperate yearning. In “Falling,” love was within reach, but in this case, it’s fallen out of Crooks’ grasp. The two complement each other wonderfully.
If you enjoy traditional country music, this record would make a fine addition to your collection. If you don’t, it’s still worth a listen. It’s All Up To You separates itself from the mainstream country pack and moves in a whole variety of unexpected directions. After all, it’s always good to take a look back once in a while.
"2011Candy Says: That alt country feel that I am a sucker for exudes through the featured song and is a great shop window on Deborah Crooks. If you like the song insist on hearing more and don't be surprised by the diversity of styles you will hear."
Deborah Crooks, It's All Up to You. Deborah Crooks describes her music as Americana, but it mostly exists at the bluesier end of that spectrum. There's something almost cabaret-like about "Let's Move"; there's a distinct Latin influence on "It's All Up to You," and "Sunday Best" sounds downright Celtic. This is a more diverse take on Americana with a distinctly female tone, and quite charming.
Deborah Crooks "It's All Up To You" - Although there are only seven songs on this great little CD, it is worthy enough to lift it above mere "EP" status. Deborah Crooks brings the rock, folk, blues, and Country flavors to this disc, telling stories of love and desire. Her smokey voice is perfectly suited for the Country-flavored rock and especially the blues tunes, particularly the amazing "Joy." As not a big fan of Country music, I have to say that Crooks's style has made me a convert to the Country-rock genre. You can buy this CD an listen to snippets at CD Baby.
It’s probably my own fault for not having a wide enough frame of reference for this kind of thing, but still: the first comparison that came to mind when listening to Deborah Crooks’ It’s All Up To You EP was the relatively obscure 1992 solo album Izzy Stradlin made with the Ju Ju Hounds. Which isn’t even nearly accurate enough a comparison to withstand much interrogation. In fact, it’s pretty flimsy in almost every way.
So why did it, like a cowled crim wielding a cudgel, strike me so forcefully?
As opposed to some of Crooks’ more obvious peers - the likes of Sheryl Crowe, and perhaps a tired Alanis Morissette - what Stradlin’s record shares with It’s All Up To You is an easy, summer road-trip, I’ve-listened-to-a-lot-of-Rolling-Stones-and-I’m-not-afraid-to-show-it kind of vibe.
This is especially obvious on EP opener “Let’s Move”, which is about as intrinsically Stones-ian as making dubious romantic advances on an attractively under-aged youth. But, unlike one of Ron Wood’s Saturday evenings, this is a thoroughly pleasant experience: the guitars have just enough chunkiness to give the song some drive, but are warm enough to complement the song’s gently enthusiastic tone.
And like Stradlin, Crooks seems happiest when lovingly recycling the more rootsy elements of rock music. Song arrangements remain charmingly basic throughout: from the Memphis blues of “Joy” (a hint of Alannah “Black Velvet” Myles, easily forgiven due to Crooks’ earnestness) to the shimmering country-pop of “Falling”, tracks have an average running time of a shade over three minutes, and not a second is given to unnecessary frippery or adventure. You get the feeling that, rather than push the envelope, Crooks would rather stuff a handwritten letter to a missed love one inside it.
Of the seven songs on display, two stand out as highlights. Firstly, the fondly nostalgic “Grandma Mission Blues”, which benefits from being the most plainly personal songs on the EP - according to the blurb on her website, it was written about her Croatian-immigrant grandmother’s life in San Francisco.
Secondly, the uncharacteristically melancholic “Sunday Best”, propelled by a lovely militaristic drumbeat. From what I can gather it deals with a protagonist who didn’t see eye to eye with her mother and deals with it by focusing with unusual intent on doing the laundry, or something, but this leads me to an important point about the EP, and the final similarity with Mr Stradlin: the lyrics are utterly secondary to the overall cadence and atmosphere. “Yeah nothing happens till something moves, so baby let’s move” indeed.
A conclusion then. It’s All Up To You is an splendidly pleasant way to spend half an hour, particularly if it’s playing on a car radio, or perhaps an iThing as you barrel absentmindedly along some train tracks, and can be safely deemed above average (it receives a 6 instead of a 5 by dint of having “Sunday Best” on offer). But it falls short of being truly memorable - unlike, say, a night out with Ron Wood. Although they’re equally hard to recommend very enthusiastically.
"Deborah Crooks vocal line a bit at the sound of the singer Chrissie Hynde Pretenders' also a typical sob in the somewhat hoarse voice. The song "Let's Move" from the EP "It's All Up To You" showcases this comparison might be the best. It is also one who climbs with a vengeance after a first listening it is difficult to remove from memory falls. The great romantic songs beautifully sung "Falling" and being beautiful in its simplicity "Someone Needs You Now"are among the best songs from these two plates.
These are little-ep but hopefully as a snack and are likely to regard the run up to half full CD, which we, after listening to this song just can look forward with hope."
"Her "Dream Me" is pop folk as clean and natural as spring water. Meanwhile, a contemplative rocker "Turn It All Red" evokes Sheryl Crow with Mark Knopfler-style guitar busting of the seams."
About "It's All Up to You": "Really nice work on the new one. ...wonderful colorful arrangements and warm, human sounding vocals. Top notch."
Deborah Crooks and Her Abundant Indie Blues
Join Brian Ball, Host of WomensRadio Music Review, in welcoming San Francisco songwriter Deborah Crooks! Deborah is entering an especially busy month, heading out on the Indie Abundance™ tour of the Northwest as well as launching a new blues project, the Crooks/Walsh Blues. In this interview you’ll learn more about the artists’ Deborah is working with, her upcoming Pacific Northwest tour and an exclusive peek at her upcoming music and footwear releases!
The impressive full-length debut by Bay Area songwriter Deborah Crooks, backed here by a full electric band playing a mix of mostly pensive, slow-to-midtempo rock with subtlety and good taste. Crooks’ voice evokes Chrissie Hynde’s late period, able to shift from a gentle, knowing murmur to a soaring wail in a split-second. The music defies association with any era other than perhaps this one: no 70s folkie-blues clichés, no 80s synthesizer schlock, no boring 90s trip-hop or silly samples. The production may be lush, but the overall feeling is consistently raw and emotional. There’s a lot of longing, regret and angst here, but it’s all familiar: pretty much anybody can relate to the catalog of disappointments and dashed hopes that Crooks chronicles. The cd kicks with its title track, a characteristically pensive ballad. The cd’s second cut, Living Proof is a stark, haunting minor key tale of living on the fringes, with spooky violin accents that join with the guitar, building to a long, screaming crescendo on the last verse before literally falling off the edge. Anchored by somber Hammond organ, St. Anthony is a viscerally wrenching requiem: Mountains crumble underfoot And glaciers creak and moan Songbirds sing the same song their whole life Pray and they'll make it home… You torched the fields And you wait for all that grass to grow back The brief, fragmentary Little Girl is as hopeful a song as there is here, picking up the pace doublespeed at the end with some nicely bracing slide guitar. The 6/8 ballad Where You’re Going clangs along on a pretty 12-string melody: “Here come those clouds, it’s gonna pour again,” Crooks laments. Big Wide Ocean, from her previous ep Turn It All Red, is a slow soulful ballad featuring more vivid, incisive lead guitar. Of all the cuts here, Roll Back Time most closely evokes the Pretenders, albeit in quiet ballad mode with its echoey violin and fingerpicked guitar. The rest of the cd reveals the band adept at upbeat, Cajun-inflected rock and minimalist soul balladry but not country. That’s a minor quibble, though: give this to someone you know who detests singer/songwriters and you will change their mind, if only for one album. “Put me on your ipod,” it murmurs, bleak but resonant.
She sings in an intimate way about love, winning and losing that love, about life and the necessary trust in any relationship. We are talking about Deborah Crooks from Santa Cruz, but since some time working in San Francisco. Her debut album "Adding Water To The Ashes" contains some textual lyrical and musical gems such as the delicious "St. Anthony, the emotional but hopeful "Little Girl", the musical tour de force "Land's End" with beautiful harmony vocals by Eamon Ryland, the persistent fair "Miss Me Sometime" and the intensely intimate "Believe". Vocal does Deborah Crooks me happy at times reminiscent of Natalie Merchant (10,000 Maniacs) or Margo Timm (of Cowboy Junkies), her voice is equally beautiful to describe. Finally we would like an extra entry to the beautiful painting "Fire / Sky" by Patty Neal that a story can tell on the record sleeve. "Adding Water To The Ashes" is a treasure picture of a strong singer who, in our not too long have to wait again to work on our new release. We are now honored under the category of fans of the first hour to be classified.
"Deborah Crooks pours stiff shots of brains, soul, and guts into her compositions."
"....“Adding Water to the Ashes” is an excellent production and I was drawn in immediately by the high standard of musicianship and songwriting. There are assertive drum beats and imaginative arrangements throughout the CD. These qualities are especially evident on songs such as Living Proof, Miss Me Sometimes, and the innocent poetry of Where You're Going.
It's clear though that over and above the musicianship, Deborah Crooks' voice is the star attraction of this work. Reminiscent of Jesse Sykes, she sings with a quiet assertion, that gently demands to be heard. The instruments seem to gather round her presence like rivers flow in to a lake...."
"Her lyrics are both honest and courageous. She has a black velvet style that reminds me of Alana Myles."
"thought-provoking arsenal of sensitive material."
"Crooks is moody like Stevie Nicks and Midnight Oil and somewhat melancholic all on her own... "Dream Me," is a great song of compassion. Listeners should be eager to hear the rest of 5 Acres." -- December 2004
" Crooks sings meaty lyrics. Her voice roughness is rich in its simplicity, especially against the delicately keyed "Dream Me." … [her] album is worth listening to for the storytelling and lyrics.”
Interview/Review: Deborah Crooks' Prayer for the World
On the home page scroll over the On Demand bar along the top. Click that.Click on Page 10.
Scroll down till you see The Indie Pool podcasts show up.
Click on the title: The Indie Pool: Deborah Crooks
To listen, click "play"
"Deborah's vibe satisfies every roots-rock urge you will ever have. As for that list of "compares to"... add Chrissie Hynde- at least, that's what we hear in "Let's Move." — You Can't Make It Up
Featured on episode #136 of You Can't Make It Up, Monday 3/21/2011