Deborah Crooks

Blog

 It’s doubly gratifying when a reviewer listens to your record...then listens again. Rocking Magpie on The Department of the West:

"There’s an effortless finesse to the way these songs are constructed; and I’m sure there will be minimal lighting when they play the two pertinently observed song about Native American History are sung in concert; What The Land Will Tell You and the title track Department Of The West as both have a delicate melody but a very powerful message that will and should be listened to in silence.
I’ve struggled a couple of times here with my descriptions as I don’t want these gorgeous songs to sound ‘preachy’ or ‘worthy’ as that couldn’t be any further from the truth …….. they; and the jaunty River Stones are all what Americana music is all about for me; imaginative, cinematic, informative and last but not least …… entertaining.
Let The River Do The Running sits comfortably in both Americana and Alt. Country camps, with its rustic imagery being a metaphor for a struggling relationship; and the band sound as if they’ve been unearthed in a boarded up roadside diner somewhere West of Vegas and dusted off and plugged in; such is their authenticity here and on just about every other other track.
There are a couple of songs I’ve already mentioned that could easily be my Favourite Song; as well as the stunning The Other Side, but I’m going for Long Roads as it piqued my attention last night and still sounded stunning this morning; and now I’ve discovered what it’s about ……. phew……….. Deborah Crooks is one subtle songwriter!!
I’m not going to spoil the surprise ……. find it yourself and listen as it unravels over several plays ……. then you can thank me.
Yet again I was feeling a bit jaded and considering taking a sabbatical over the holidays; but discovering this gem has restored my faith in the Power of Music …… and I’ve now got three more of her albums to discover as well as her other band Bay Station!
It’s only Rock n Roll ……. but I love it." — full review at The Rocking Magpie

Thanks friends and generally awesome people for coming to the show; my band and Gayle Lynn Schmitt for sharing the stage and Amado’s for providing a great space for such a sweet night of music! Some snaps and a video from Thursday’s Department of the West record release show follow below. Such fun to play with and share a bill with this group of musicians! I’m so grateful to everyone who came out and helped make it happen. About that dress I’m wearing: In March, when I had a gig shortly after I started recording The Department of the West, I played out the familiar scenario of fretting about what to wear and if I had the right shoes, etc. Then I remembered the quirky, vintage dress Kwame's mom Pat had given me on a visit more than a year earlier. I'd taken it home without trying it on and had yet to wear it. Miraculously, it fit perfectly. (And, more miracles, I actually already owned shoes that went with it!) What's even cooler is that the dress isn't a brand. It's handmade, one-of-a-kind, sewn by Kwame's grandmother. I'm told she was an actress and the wife of a Naval Captain, and that she sewed much of her own clothing out of fabric bought on her travels. I'm not sure where the design or fabric for this dress came from (its cotton twill, with a nice heft), but it fits, and sure is fun to wear.

The Department of the West  by Deborah Crooks available everywhere now! 

California songwriter Deborah Crooks announces the release of her
fourth full-length album The Department of the West (Dec. 6, 2019).  A follow-up to her 2016 EP Beauty Everywhere and her work with the band
Bay Station, which released Other Desert Cities in 2018, Crooks
continues to explores themes of natural history (“River Stones”),
family (“All Signs”), and the #metoo movement (“Long Roads”), while
also addressing the nature of land ownership and Native American
history (“Department of the West” “What the Land Will Tell You”) and
relationship (“Let the River do the Running”).

Crooks co-produced The Department of the West with Danny Allen (Baby
Buck Studio, High Diving Horses) and recorded at John Vanderslice’s
Tiny Telephone Studio in San Francisco. Allen also played guitars,
ukulele and banjo on the album, and was joined by Mike Stevens (The
Uptones, Sun Kil Moon) on drums and percussion, Kevin T. White (Chuck
ProphetShelby Lynne) on bass. Longtime collaborator Kwame Copeland
(Bay Station, Straw Coyotes) as well as Heather Davison (Loretta
Lynch), Maurice Tani and Maryam Qudus also contributed backing vocals.
The recording was mixed and engineered by Qudus (Tune-YardsKronos Quartet) and mastered by Piper Payne (Infrasonic Sound).
Song Titles:
1. Lit by the Mystery (2:28)
2. Let the River do the Running (4:21)
3. Honey (3:30)
4. All Signs (3:57)
5. A Garden (3:48)
6. Department of the West (3:11)
7. My New Sweet (3:53)
8. Long Roads (4:27)
9. The Other Side (4:38)
10. River Stones (3:43)
11. What the Land Will Tell You (3:10)

The Department of the West RECORD RELEASE SHOW
is this Thursday, December 5 at Amado's in San Francisco! Amado's is a sweet, downstairs venue in the heart of the Mission District and I've an excellent co-bill in Gayle Lynn & the Hired Hands who will start out the evening.
My band for the night features a bunch of musical geniuses: Danny Allen (guitars, backing vocals), Kwame Copeland (guitars, harmonica, backing vocals), Kevin T. White (bass) and Andrew Griffin (drums) as well as some special guests. This is my big show of the year — help make it happen!
THURSDAY, December 5, 2019 at Amado's
998 Valencia St
San Francisco, CA
7:30 doors/8pm show $15 adv/$20 door TICKETS HERE

 

About Track #11 "What the Land Will Tell You"
This was another song written on a retreat at the intersection of the Salmon River Scenic Byway and Sawtooth Scenic Byway where it wasn't uncommon to walk outside and see a Bald Eagle fly over and a herd of pronghorn grazing along the ridge. Lewis & Clark famously traveled the region... a bit of information of the sort we’re often first taught about a place...but the history of the west, of any place, is of course much older than colonial exploration, and firstly, natural.
I recently read this quote by indigenous botanist and author Robin Kimmerer that speaks to some of what I was feeling while writing this song, what became the final track of the record:
“I can’t help but cling to the notion that it’s not the land that’s broken, it is our relationship to land that’s broken....Grief is a measure of how much we love. And so I honor that grief, but then you roll up your sleeves. Out of the love that you have for the world — that’s expressed in that grief — then you get to work, the work of restoration.” Between now and it’s official release day—which is coming up quick! —I’ve been sharing a bit of the inspiration and backstory for each song on The Department of the West and a preview of the recording.
Buy a ticket to the San Francisco record release show this Thursday. Dec 5 at Amado’s in San Francisco HERE
and I’ll send you ”What the Land Will Tell You”

*drawing from an old notebook predating the actual writing of this song by many years!

I rounded up a great crew of musicians to record The Department of the West: songwriter/guitarist Danny Allen whose playing I’d admired since I caught one of his sets at an Oakland show then saw him accompanying several other esteemed Bay Area songwriters (Mick Schaffer, Val Esway, Joe Rut). Likewise, Kevin White has long been a go-to on bass for many when he’s not playing with Chuck Prophet in The Mission Express. And I’ve called on drummer Mike Stevens (The Uptones, Sun Kil Moon) for more than a decade since Ben Bernstein and Kwame Copeland recommended him for a show shortly after I released my first full-length record. Their work was rounded out by Kwame who added backing vocals and harmonica; Maurice Tani and Heather Davison also added backing vocals, and the formidable engineer/musician/singer Maryam Qudus, who stepped away from the board long enough to sing and add keys to a couple songs. Yes, a GREAT bunch! 

Between now and it’s official release day, I’ve been sharing the backstory for to the songs The Department of the West (December 6, 2019), and a preview of the recording. Pre-order the record    and/or buy a ticket to the San Francisco record release show on Thursday, Dec 5 at Amado’s  and I’ll send you the featured song of the week!
.
 

About The Department of the West (Dec 6, 2019)
Most of these songs were written over the past three years but they’re really about my reckoning with personal and family history to date in the Western US. I’m a California native, born to two San Francisco natives with very disparate backgrounds: my mom a first-generation Croatian; my dad, a World War II veteran in a long line of war veterans.
I grew up on a rural part of Santa Cruz County on a piece of land my dad inherited from an aunt. A tintype portrait of our Great Great Grandfather Gen. George Washington Crooks hung on the wall along with a Civil War issue rifle. We were taught to be proud of him. It wasn’t until a few years ago, still processing the family fallout in the wake of my father's death, and subsequent sale of the land I’d first called home, that I realized my great grandfather’s lifetime career of military service included the Indian Wars. This led to a revision of how I viewed my family’s pride and my beliefs about land ownership, even if you were born to it and loved it.
Still I naturally gravitate toward open spaces. My phone is full of pictures from visits to much of the west that Gen George Washington fought to occupy and assert claim... and where I ended up writing many of the songs on this record.
SONG ORDER
1. Lit by the Mystery
2. Let the River do the Running
3. Honey
4. All Signs
5. A Garden
6. Department of the West
7. My New Sweet
8. Long Roads
9. The Other Side
10. River Stones
11. What the Land Will Tell You
Between now and its official release I’ve been sharing a bit of the inspiration and backstory for each song on The Department of the West. Pre-order the record -http://www.deborahcrooks.com/the_department_of_the_west/
and/or buy a ticket to the San Francisco record release show Dec 5 at Amado’s & I’ll send you the
song of the week.

Audio preview of the penultimate track on The Department of the West, “River Stones” re: mountains and rivers, rock cycles and life cycles. Recorded and mixed by Maryam Qudus at Tiny Telephone, San Francisco Mastered by Piper Payne at Infrasonic Sound Acoustic guitar, vocals: Deborah Crooks Electric guitars: Danny Allen Bass: Kevin T. White Drums, percussion: Mike Stevens Backing vocals & harmonica: Kwame Copeland Between now and it’s official release day (next week!), I’ve been sharing a bit of the inspiration and backstory for each song on The Department of the West (December 6, 2019), and a preview of the recording. Pre-order the record -http://www.deborahcrooks.com/the_depa... and/or buy a ticket to the San Francisco record release show Dec 5 at Amado’s http://www.amadossf.com/shows/2019/12... and I’ll send you the featured song of the week!

Track 10 "River Stones"
I grew up near a creek and spent many afternoons searching for the smoothest rocks to try to skip across the water. I had no idea how long it had taken those stones to become so polished and skippable. Flash forward to last year, spending a week songwriting beside the Salmon River, hearing the intermittent clatter of rocks being carried downstream. At the same time, I could see the mountains whence those rocks came. As I sat working on what would be the last song written that week, I couldn’t not see parallels between rock and human life cycles:
“Mountain holds us/steady and strong/earth rumble moves us along/first a boulder then a rock/ falling tumbling, knock knock/we’re just river stones/finding our way home/together and alone/we’re just river stones”

Between now and it’s official release day—which is coming up quick! —I’ve been sharing a bit of the inspiration and backstory for each song on The Department of the West and a preview of the recording. Pre-order the record HERE
and/or buy a ticket to the San Francisco record release show Dec 5 at Amado’s  and I’ll send you the featured song of the week.

RSS feed