Chris Crabtree
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Chris Crabtree

Kansas City, MO | Established. Jan 01, 2015

Kansas City, MO
Established on Jan, 2015
Solo Americana Folk




"Music Review: Chris Crabtree's 'Counterfeit Heart'"

Chris Crabtree calls his new album “a soundtrack to the novel Zen and the Art of Killing Yourself.” I haven’t read the book and don’t feel the need to, because this set of songs stands sturdily on its own. In fact, the album’s climactic centerpiece, "At the Time of My Passing," embraces the weighty implications of death and suicide, either real or imagined, with redemptive tenderness and hope.

Like its recurrent shimmering guitar sustain, that hopefulness permeates this album. It suits Crabtree’s yearning vocal style, somewhere close to the timbre of Oasis’s Liam Gallagher, a little elfin and remarkably soulful. The effect is both grounded and otherworldly, well suiting a record about the enormous risk and equally endless promise in everyday relationships.

The album’s opening hooks sound like a search for truth overwhelmed by emotion. Using a throbbing heart of bass, ringing guitars and emphatic harmonica, “Electric Blue Disguise’s” singer pledges devotion to his beloved despite wondering “what’s behind those eyes.” Chimes ring forth on the anthemic strut of “Counterfeit Love,” a would-be devotional at war with itself.

A weighty mix of electronic wash and percussion add turbulent atmosphere to the confrontation that follows: “Don’t Give Me That” affirms that, despite the difficulty in really trusting another person, our loved ones are key to understanding ourselves and realizing our potential. Such tough truths ground a trilogy of delicately beautiful voice and guitar meditations at the heart of the record.

The last of these, “At the Time of My Passing,” builds back to the size of the opening cuts as one lover reassures the other. Rumbling bass and drums call into a darkness lit by gently probing guitar. This climax eventually works its way to something like a duet in which singer Julie Stirnaman repeats the caress of a line, “you silly thing.”

Menacing organ, ringing guitar and wordless backing vocals turn Julie Miller’s afterlife meditation “All My Tears” into a U2-like anthem. With similar grandeur, “Bus Stop” rails against the death of a relationship, while the most electronic experiment here, “Heat (I Got Some),” approaches the scattered pieces with renewed determination.

The airy and tender “Welcome Back” declares the operation a qualified success. All of the shining elements (including the most ethereal of backing vocals) are here, though muted. The song only reaches for something like triumph when the singer refuses to “be undone by a bullet or a gun.”

After that, the album brings all of its tentative hope to a gorgeous “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” A mix of the album’s rough and tumble characters, and presumably a few lonesome souls off the street, wander in to offer an impassioned reading of a line or two and add another layer to the chorus. The effect is every bit as tentative and tender as the reach for love that’s been palpable since the album’s start.

Kansas City-area music journalist Danny Alexander is the associate editor of Rock & Rap Confidential and author of Real Love, No Drama: The Music of Mary J. Blige, out in 2016 from the University of Texas Press. - KCUR

"Local songwriter Chris Crabtree writes a novel and songs to accompany it"

Inspiration can come from unexpected places, even tragedy half a world away.

Chris Crabtree was visiting Tokyo in March 2011 when a 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck the east coast of Japan.

“We arrived 24 hours before the quake,” he said. “Buildings shook and swayed for a long time, but we never witnessed any damage.”

Fukushima, about 150 miles north of Tokyo, suffered the brunt of the damage, but Crabtree and his family left early, worried the entire island could be quarantined.

“News out of Fukushima got worse every day,” he said, “so we cut short our stay.”

The experience affected Crabtree heavily. When he returned to Kansas City, he started writing about it.

“(Japan) had a big impact on me,” he said. “It made me think a lot about the important things in life, things like faith, hope and love.”

So he wrote the well-crafted pop song “Counterfeit Love,” which became the second track on “Counterfeit Heart,” the 11-track recording he will officially release on Friday. As he wrote more songs for the album, Crabtree was unexpectedly inspired to start another writing project: a novel.

“I was writing the song ‘At the Time of My Passing,’ ” he said. “And I started thinking about what it was about and about the characters in the song and what happened to them and how they’d reached this point in their lives.”

He pursued that theme separately in an essay, which, six months later, became the draft of what would be his first novel, “Zen and the Art of Killing Your Self.”

Friday at the Buffalo Room,” Crabtree will celebrate the releases of “Counterfeit Heart” and its literary companion, “Zen.”

The book chronicles the “existential crisis” of a 27-year-old dealing with the suicide of a close friend. He’s in graduate school studying religion and astrophysics, Crabtree said, “but he doesn’t think either has the universe figured out.”

A woman friend accompanies him to the funeral, but he’s in a dark place and oblivious to her intentions.

“The story is about whether he will follow his friend down the path of darkness or figure himself out and realize the girl with him is perfect for him,” Crabtree said.

Some of the songs on “Counterfeit” can be heard as soundtracks to moments in the book.

“In the song ‘Electric Blue Disguise,’ one character is talking to the other,” he said. “She has electric-blue eyes, but he can’t see past them. He sees them as a disguise. He wants to know what she sees in him and why she is there.”

You’ll have to read the book to find out how it concludes. But there will be a happy ending to Crabtree’s release party at the Buffalo Room. He will be joined by two songwriters from Nashville: Salar Rajabnik, a former Kansas Citian who worked on “Counterfeit Heart,” and Warren Pash, whose songwriting resume includes a co-write on the Hall & Oates hit “Private Eyes.”

The three will each perform a set of their own songs, then together in a songwriters’ circle.

“Salar has been a great music friend for years,” Crabtree said. “I invited him to come up and play the show. He played on a lot of songs on (the album). He bumped into Warren and they became friends. Salar said, ‘I’ve been talking about your project a lot and playing your music to Pash and he’s into it. We’ve been talking about coming to Kansas City to do a show and we’d like to do your show.’ How about that? Who would I rather have?”

Read more here: - Kansas City Star


Still working on that hot first release.



I wrote an album and a novel at the same time. The novel is a dark-comedy-love-story, which describes my music, too (except for the comedy part). Nobody ever requests my song "Two Penises" but I like to play it anyway—if the audience is giving good vibe. My other songs are so melancholy. I need to have this one to lift everyone's spirits!

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