"...a more diverse take on Americana with a distinctly female tone, and quite charming." — East Bay Express
One of Music Connection magazine’s 2012's HOT 100 Live Unsigned Artists & Bands.
Deborah Crooks is a vibrant artist carrying on the San Francisco tradition of powerful female singer/songwriters with literate lyrics and progressive musical attitudes; well respected within the music scene and increasingly so outside of it.
The California-born and bred singer/songwriter grew up at the nexus of two tectonic plates; close to a city known for its history of social, musical and political upheaval. But the lid really came off of Crooks’ creative self during her studies at Colorado’s The Naropa Institute, whose ecumenical Buddhist-based educational philosophy of the school inspired Crooks to take up Buddhist practice, begin studying yoga and to see her creative side as a spiritual outlet. Around the same time Crooks experienced the Telluride Folk Festival, and was inspired to walk in the footsteps of such literate artists as Michelle Shocked, Lucinda Williams and Shawn Colvin.
Having built a worldview through the lens of opportunity and tragedy, Deborah sees in her surroundings the opportunity to make the world a better place. She has lived through earthquakes, personal loss and even the 9/11 attacks in New York City. As a songwriter, Crooks reflects the contradictions she sees in the world in song, unveiling in her lyrics truths that are simultaneously pragmatic and mystical. The Blues/Americana musical blend that is her canvas is simply the base from which Crooks’ songs grow. Ultimately, her music is a cultural ecotone born of her California roots, her spiritual development, her transcendent instinct and the quest for enlightenment that is both of and divergent from the disparate influences that bore it. The various tensions that swirl about the life of Deborah Crooks have catalyzed a songwriting talent that is soul-wise and edgy. Combine this with Crooks’ distinctive voice and you’ve discovered an artist capable of owning a room. Deborah Crooks doesn’t so much blow you away as she creeps into the questing places in your soul and insinuates herself as the reflective voice that sheds wisdom on a worrisome world. It’s this quality that first gained Crooks the attention of RockerGirl Magazine for her 2003 debut EP 5 Acres. The Roberta Donnay-produced EP landed Crooks on the RockerGirl Discoveries compilation and gained Crooks a national audience for the first time. In 2007 Crooks followed up with an EP entitled Turn It All Red, a stepping stone to her first full-length album, the stormy Adding Water To Ashes, released in 2009. 2010 saw the release of two EPs from the prolific singer/songwriter, which she recently repackaged into one CD '2010,' made possible by a Bay Bridged Recording Grant. The resulting tracks demonstrate Crooks’ social conscience in full force and display some of her most focused songwriting to date alongside a powerful cover of Neil Young’s “Heart Of Gold.”
A frequent performer, Deborah regularly collaborates in the studio and onstage. She recorded a 5-song CD with Alex Walsh, ‘The Crooks/Walsh Blues, (2009)’ the same month she toured the Northwest as part "Indie Abundance™ Music, Money & Mindfulness" with two other artists. She's co-hosted the local chapter of Songsalive! participates in the ongoing Bay Area Song Collective and co-writes with many other artists. Notably side collaborations have included co-writing with Pop Tuna’s B.Z. Lewis, resulting in the tracks "You Are Home" (chosen for both the Java with Jahvalin Indie Artist CD 2005 and the Indie Music for Life), "The More I Know" (2005) and "All This Love," (2006); with Stefan Gustafsson (Luminous Family Trust) as well as Maurice Tani (77 El Deora).
In 2010, she took off on the The Great Idea Tour with fellow songwriter and yogini Jean Mazzei, performing at music venues and LuluLemon stores across the nation to promote music and mindfulness, and was a featured speaker at SXSW Music.
She's currently recording a new collection of songs with producer Art Khu to be released spring 2013.
Deborah Crooks, vocals and guitar
Band members Kwame Copeland (guitar), Alex Walsh (lead guitar), Tatiana Ecoiffier (viola), Tim Perdue (bass), and/or Ben Bernstein (bass), Mike Stevens (drums) with appearances by Art Khu (keys), John Mazzei (keys) Eamon Ryland (guitar) Raphael MacCregor (guitar).
"Little Bird" Full-length CD tbd release date 2013
"2010" Full-length CD, 2011
"It's All Up to You," EP, March 2010
"Crooks/Walsh Blues Project" EP September, 2009
"Adding Water to the Ashes" full length CD September 2008
"Turn It All Red" EP, 2007
"5 Acres" EP, 2003
"You Are Home" single, on 2005's Java with Javalyn CD
and "Indie Music For Life" CD
"Dream Me" on 2004 RockerGirl Discoveries CD
"More I Know" single 2005
"All This Love" single 2006
Songs have received airplay on KPFA, KALX, live 365, the Indie Pool and many digital stations.
Album Review: Deborah Crooks – It’s All Up To You
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There are some artists who grew up with their feet firmly planted in the tradition of country and bl...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.
Local Licks: This week we review Misisipi Rider, Jhameel, Deborah Crooks, and The Well Wishers.
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It's All Up to You. Deborah Crooks describes her music as Americana, but it mostly exists at the blu...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. (self-released)
Deborah Crooks: It's All Up To You
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It’s probably my own fault for not having a wide enough frame of reference for this kind of thing, b...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 (incidentally, while visiting the website several times to research lyrics and bios and suchlike, I was continually assaulted by the music-box atop the homepage which insisted on playing automatically, with no option to disable it, only to pause it, which is surely one of the cardinal sins a website can commit. Grr, etc.)
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).
CD Review: Adding Water to the Ashes
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The impressive full-length debut by Bay Area songwriter Deborah Crooks, backed here by a full electr...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 a whole lot
Pray and we’ll make it home
Ain’t that the way love is?
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.
South of Mainstream gives 5 Acres Three Stars
"...think Johnette Napolitano or even Annie Lennox. Her voice is full of character and charm."
Light, Shade and Everything in Between
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Turn It All Red is the title of the excellent new janglerock album from Bay Area songwriter Deborah ...Turn It All Red is the title of the excellent new janglerock album from Bay Area songwriter Deborah Crooks. Backed by a tight three-piece band, singer/guitarist Crooks opens the album with the catchy, bouncy title track. It’s about pulling out all the stops: “pull out your purple heart and turn it all red,” she cajoles. And what a fine song stylist she is, sounding like Chrissie Hynde at her late 80s peak as a vocalist on the next track, the beautifully pensive Land’s End. In a highly nuanced, subtly soul-inflected delivery, she retraces the steps of someone who’s finally come into her own, finally ready to stop burning her bridges. She maintains that feel on the next track, Raising Cain, whose narrator is simply trying to find her way through the storm while maintaining her sanity:
You can raise and nation, and birth a son
But where does a daughter get to stand
Who’s eaten that apple
Gleaned from this poisoned land
“Rock the cradle all the way to the grave,” Crooks sings with not a little bittersweetness at the end of the chorus. The ep concludes on the same upbeat note where it began with another catchy, bouncing pop-rock tune, Café la Vie. The only complaint about this album is that there aren’t more songs on it. What a nice surprise to get this in the mail!
WELCOME TO THE DIY REPORTER
"An honest singer/songwriter who’ll seduce you with her smoky voice...." www.diyreporter.com
Deborahr Crooks Adding Water to the Ashes
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She sings in an intimate way about love, winning and losing that love, about life and the necessary ...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.
CD Baby Rates Give 5 Acres Stars
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"Soothing voice and meaningful lyrics!! Love Dream Me, very hopeful and a tasty arrangement,refresh... "Soothing voice and meaningful lyrics!! Love Dream Me, very hopeful and a tasty arrangement,refreshingly honest and thought provoking.........."
--Bruno Grossi / CDBaby
Smooth and Real
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Deborah Crooks "5 Acres" When I opened up Deborah Crooks cd entitled “5 Acres” while ...
Deborah Crooks "5 Acres"
When I opened up Deborah Crooks cd entitled “5 Acres” while running task’s I couldn’t wait to hear this cd and was intrigued by the artwork. The cd artwork reflects the mood almost to a “T”. On the front Deborah sits in contemplation with fingers steepled, an acoustic guitar rests close by. This black & white photograph is classic with southern blues musicians. Inside the cd there is lyrics and another gorgeous black & white that is taken at ground level and depicts lilies in full bloom, wind blown, under a sunny sky. The chained fence behind the lilies create an ominous illusion.
From the moment the music played my city stress began to dissipate upon hearing the fine southern acoustic melodies. Her lyrics are both honest and courageous. She has a black velvet style that reminds me of Alana Myles. Deborah Crooks has a voice that is smooth and real. I’d like to hear her really let it all out!
After hearing the cd once, I knew that I would immediately play it again and I did. The first track, “Answers”, is definitely my favorite song on the cd. It’s upbeat tempo is lively while Deborah sings with conviction and faith. This is a song that probably everyone can relate to at one time or another. The end is only the beginning of something else or something like that ..right? The mandolin in this song rings as if to awaken the listener and is brilliant for this reason. The acoustic guitar strumming is energetic and really sets up a nice electric lead. Tasty! -- Monica Yonge
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Interview with Jon Russel of the Indie Pool The podcast is available at our website www.kyouradio...Interview with Jon Russel of the Indie Pool
The podcast is available at our website www.kyouradio.com
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 on your computer click "play".
45 minutes-2 hours
Looking Down the Road
Miss Me Sometime
Adding Water to the Ashes
Where You're Going
Someone Needs You Now
It's All Up to You
Roll Back Time
Turn It All Red
Leo Leo Leo
Find My Way
Grandma Mission Blues
Turn the Key
Miss Ohio (cover)
16 Days (cover)
Hesitation Blues (cover)