Rae Billing / Crybaby
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Rae Billing / Crybaby

Hamilton, Ontario, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 2016 | INDIE

Hamilton, Ontario, Canada | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2016
Band Americana Singer/Songwriter




""Billing has one of those goose bumps-inducing voices and she writes powerfully poetic songs.""

It has been five years between solo albums for highly accomplished country-folk singer/songwriter Rae Billing, but Walls & Fences proves to be well worth the wait. It's Billing's fourth solo album; prior to that she fronted Crybaby, an undervalued alt-country band well ahead of its time.

Billing has one of those goose bumps-inducing voices a la Lucinda Williams, and she writes powerfully poetic songs. Highlights include the timely social conscience of "Sacramento River" and haunting "And Pretend".

As ever, she's surrounded by great musicians, including guitarist Andrew Aldridge and producer Michael J. Birthelmer. English critics love her, and she deserves a higher profile here. The album comes out on the HUG-MUSIC label, run by roots music veteran Peter J. Moore (Cowboy Junkies), a longtime Billing supporter.

She launched the disc at Toronto's Dakota this week, and plays The Casbah Lounge in Hamilton on Nov. 8. - Kerry Doole, New Canadian Magazine Toronto

""if you are looking for a purely great, soulful album...""

After nearly a seven-year absence the smooth-as-silk lyrics of Billing appear doused in a deep southern sound that permeates throughout.

A considerable period has passed since her last album Self-Titled, but thankfully Rae Billing arrives back on the scene with an album that is influenced by a number of genres ranging from gospel, jazz and rockabilly.

Produced by Peter J Moore, Billing opens with the albums title track that seems to be more comfortable in a road film, playing over footage of a Chevrolet driving down Route 66 with the song audible for miles around. Next up, is the gospel-esque Covering Ground, aided by the beautiful B3 and some catchy riffs. Images of a smoky blues club filled with a cowboy boat wearing audience introduce us to One Day Let You Go, a song that, at a number of moments, is filled with great drumming by Cleave Anderson that would make even Keith Moon stand up and pay attention.

By now, I’m as chilled as a defrosted cucumber. The albums concluding song You Can’t Make Plans combines all involved towards creating a very apt piece that should be best listened to on a Sunday morning. Billing’s vocals reach the high notes to perfection, and musicians do not allow themselves to show off whilst Billing is in full swing.

To those wanting to know what Billing’s voice sounds like, it’s hard to define exactly. On Covering Ground, it’s Trisha Yearwood. On other songs, it could be Chrissie Hynde.

If you are looking for a purely great, soulful album that adds even more credibility to alternative country, then buying Blue Black Night wouldn’t be a foolish thing to do.
- Maverick Magazine, UK

""there are not many albums that catch you by the throat as this one does...""

Seven years ago appeared the self-titled debut from the Canadian singer/songwriter Rae Billing. As far as I am concerned, it belonged to a better class than has appeared in the past number of years.

My expectations regarding her second disc, again with the same producer, Peter J. Moore (Oh Susannah, Holy Cole, Cowboy Junkies), were then also electrifying after those seven long years, expectations to which Rae Billing on Blue Black Night has satisfied on all fronts.

Also on her second disc (made in Hamilton, Ontario) where she lives, the impression is of tasteful country songs with a suggestion of melancholy sadness that is immediately compensated through strength and energy. Not a dime-a-dozen country singer, but a kitten that cannot be handled without gloves.

This disk made me think seriously of a mixture of Emmylou Harris and Lucinda Williams. This way I can immediately put a handle to place her. They are also the artists who have had a huge influence on Rae. Therefore, female singer/songwriters take notice, this Rae Billing is good!.. because her newest album "Blue Black Night" is again something very special, not only because of the exceptionally beautiful warm voice of Rae or her supple manner of singing, but also the beautiful arrangements.

Supported by her old friends, Cleave Anderson (Blue Rodeo, The Battered Wives, The Screwed), on drums, Steve Koch (Demics, Handsome Ned, Ron Sexsmith) on guitar, Derrick Brady (Dodge Fiasco, Hawksley Workman) on Bass, Matt Horner (Mary Margaret O'Hara) on keys and backup vocals by Greg Clarke (Corndogs, The Madvaarks) and "Lucky" Pete Lambert (Kensington Hillbillies, The Trojans). Rae delights us on her new disk, one after the other presents the pinnacle, taking from country, rock and soul and are carried along by Billing's glorious voice. Speaking of old friends, with "Lucky" Pete Lambert she was part of the Toronto alt-country band, Crybaby, where she also was the singer/songwriter and in 1996, the band released their only album "Paintings."

This CD begins strikingly with some more up-tempo numbers, including the title track, "Blue Black Night", "Covering Ground", and "One Day Let Your Go" and continues with a more shuffling gait, country-type songs with "The Dream", "Shatter", "All The Little Things", "Waiting to Fall" and "You Can't Make Plans". All traditional songs a la Williams, exactly like we like to hear it. Besides the cover "Personal Jesus," Rae penned the remaining eleven songs. The arrangements are sometimes personal but larger than life, tension builds up to shivering proportions and above all is the emotion.

There are not many albums that catch you by the throat as this one and no matter how often you hear them, the feeling remains. That each month obviously some disks come forth that are beautiful is absolutely true. You definitely don't hear us complaining but really special, that remains a rarity. "Blue Black Night" is such a rare moment: good songs, full of emotional vocals, terrific musicianship and a terrific production. This disk actually has what a disc of that type must have. Everyone who embraced Billing's debut album seven years ago already knows what these Canadians have to offer. Every other female singer/songwriter must be compelled to quickly discovered this. - Freddy Celis review on Rootstime.be

""It's a great piece of musical texture...""

Toronto singer-songwriter Rae Billing's self-titled debut album builds on the momentum she started gathering with her tenure as frontwoman with alt-country-rock band Crybaby. She is backed by first-rate players from Toronto's music fraternity including bassist Peter Cardinali, drummer Kevan McKenzie, keyboardist Dave McMorrow, and guitarists Rick Whitelaw and Rob Philipp, providing richly-textured accompaniment to Rae's world-wearing honky-tonk voice. With her late-night pan-American rootsy ballads, she handles somewhat dreamy, occasionally ghostly narratives about lives damaged by love or not enough of it with gutsy femininity.

Her slightly hoarse tones, wrapped in weary, melancholic sensitivity are perfect for the aching Ribbons on the Wind and the equally impressive For Nothing. Complimented by softly strung lead guitar notes and haunting keyboard work creating a setting that is restrained, yet offhandedly sensual. Rae uses a bigger, more conventionally rockin' sound with Long Streets and Barking Dog showing plenty of vocal strength to match the arrangements.

It is a great piece of musical texture and is recommended to those who like great songwriting and excellent vocals - Alan Cackett - Alan Cackett, Maverick Magazine, UK

"TOP 10 Anti-Hit List by John Sakimoto"

3. Rae Billing, "Walking in a Dream" - "He fills his days watching the colours move inside the frame..." Formerly of Toronto country outfit Crybaby, Billing has made an astonishingly assured solo debut, climaxing in this heartbreaking rumination on a mind "slipping sideways".
- The Toronto Sun / CANOE

""There is a depth to her songs few contemporaries have yet to hone...""

A distinctive voice drawing few specific comparisons is just one of the many attributes former Crybaby singer Rae Billing has going for her. A blend located somewhere between Stevie Nicks and Emmylou Harris being an obvious choice, the chanteuse travels from alt-country ballads on "For Nothing" with the same ease proven on the Latin hues permeating "I Know."

Little of the lyrics deal with standard country music staples of cheating and alcohol, although such thoughts come to the fore on "Unspoken" and the stark "Old Game," similar in it's tone to Neil Young's "Harvest Moon" album. The ability to use her voice without reaching for theatrical depths or heights only results in a certain charm instantly recognizable. There is a depth to her songs few contemporaries have yet to hone.

Jason MacNeil
- All Music Guide

"International Artists - Crybaby"

We steal all of their hockey teams, so how do our neighbors to the north retaliate? They send us Shania Twain. If they give us Crybaby, however, we'll give 'em the Winnipeg Jets and the Quebec Nordiques back. Singer Rae Billing has a slow, sinking voice and delivery that could put Toni Price and Kelly Willis out of work; the band makes a reference to its affinity for the Austin scene in just about every interview. No need to wait another year for Lucinda's next record, when you can pick up Crybaby's debut, Paintings, today. - SXSW Music Festival

"Record Guide Top Three Country Albums"

The last of our trio is Crybaby, the Toronto group whose seductive sound on their debut, Paintings (First Stone/Outside), owes much to the persona and voice of singer Rae Billing. Her slightly hoarse tones, wrapped in weary, melancholic sensuality, are perfectly complemented by lead guitar (plus steel and piano) player Clive MacNutt, whose sly dodges from mode to mode and key to key are astonishingly original without being intrusive. On songs like "Seven and Seven" and "Paintings" MacNutt is as unpredictably atonal as Billing is languidely offhand, creating a setting that is restrained yet offhandedly sexy, like the briefly exposed nape of a lover's neck. - Eye Magazine, Toronto

"Petal Steel by Emily Smith"

The city's best non-country country band paints a pretty picture at North by Northeast...

One of Toronto's most hipstering bands is often described as country for lack of a pigeonhole... They play a more subtle style of Austin-inspired country (or should I say country/folk/rock/R&B) because of the four members' varied influences...

Crybaby's recent Peter J. Moore-produced disc Paintings (Outside) oughta do Momma proud. Some tracks are luxuriant, spooky soundscapes which augment images of loneliness and nighttime, while others are fun li'l rockin' numbers. The songs, all penned by Billing (except one that Gregory wrote), focuse mainly on personal themes including sleeping around (The Fairies), missing dear departed friends (Paintings) and the horrors of genetic engineering (The Miracle Wonderland Carnical Company - OK, this one is political).

In a decidedly more folky than country kinda way, the lyrics tend to be somewhat cryptic. "You should take from them what you want," says Billing. On occasion, it turns out, her songs have been perhaps a little too pointed for some. Her brother was a one show and recognized a song that was about him. But hey, these things come part and parcel with writing on topics so close to home.

As an added bonus, Paintings features the guest guitar goddery of local hero Steve Koch (Screamin Sam!) Although the high-calibre musicianship is readily apparent, the overall tone of the album is less edge than Crybaby's live show, which tends toward the cool down 'n' dirtiness of Southern Culture On the Skids...

So, y'all gotta come down and see this revved-up (as opposed to broke down) non-country country band during NXNE. Oh, you wonder, what is the greatest strength of a band called Crybaby? Let's hear it, as it were, from the horses' mouths.
Gregory: My bass playing!
Billing: The unique combination of people.
MacNutt: We are a group of four people and we do have different opinions, but that's part of the process. It's chemistry. When it happens that easily, you don't want to ignore it.
Billing: And we never scrap when we're playing.

by Emily Smith

- Eye Magazine Cover Article

""A rare and beautiful thing...""

It is a rare and beautiful thing, a country-cool album full of tasty guitar, laid-back vocals and sweet sad songs. Crybaby's Paintings should be listened to while getting lost in an old convertible on a dark and cloudy Sunday afternoon.

The best thing about this "country" album is the lovely worlds singer/songwriter Rae Billing invites us into. Not a touch of a gun or a gambler in sight. Billing uses images to articulate, and allows the listener to interpret: "She only sees a boy / who resembles Montgomery Clift / he dances hard and passionately / and doesn't stop to notice / the moisture on her lips."

by Tony Evans - Shift Magazine, Toronto


2018  CRYBABY  Still
"Simply impressive and breathtakingly beautiful, this second album "Still" by singer Rae Billing and Crybaby." Freddy Celis, Rootstime Belgium
"Full of honest emotion and the kind of instrumental prowess many bands can only aspire to. Check this out." Rod Nicholson, London Scene

2013  Rae Billing & The Unpayables  Walls & Fences
#1 ALBUM PICK for April - "A cross between Lucinda Williams and Bonnie Raitt, Hamilton's Rae Billing's current disc is captivating from start to finish." Andy Connelly
Penguin Eggs, Alberta
"Billing has one of those goose bumps-inducing voices a la Lucinda Williams, and she writes powerfully poetic songs." Kerry Doole, New Canadian Music

2008  Rae Billing  Blue Black Night
NXNE Tim Perlich Critic's Pick
Reviewed 4 Stars
Maverick Magazine UK
"Superb stuff." Kerry Doole Exclaim Magazine, Toronto

2001  Rae Billing  Rae Billing
"An astonishingly assured solo debut." John Sakamoto The Toronto Sun/CANOE
Reviewed 4 stars Tim Perlich NOW Magazine
"Billing's voice is a remarkably fluid and expressive instrument, honest and pure, assured and desperate at the same time,"
Greg Quill Toronto Star

1996  CRYBABY Paintings
Chosen one of the top three country albums of 1996 (along with Lyle Lovett and Blackie and the Rodeo Kings) by EYE Magazine, Toronto
"Tangy country soul," providing one of the "notable moments" at SXSW Music Conference, Austin TX, Michael McCall, Nashville Scene



Rae's voice and lyrics create a touchstone that is unique on the Canadian landscape. Her voice has been described as "shiver-inducing," "honest and pure, assured and desperate at the same time." And her lyrics and music have been lauded - "full of wide open spaces and bittersweet emotions," and called "late night, pan-Americana rootsy songs... handled with gutsy femininity."

After five years, Rae has recorded her fourth alt-country album. And it is a fluid and passionate recording. Working with the multi-talented Unpayables, consisting of Matt Coleman on violin/fiddle, Andrew Aldridge on electric guitar, K. Michael Hickey on electric and upright bass, Nick Burson on drums, plus the talents of Ed Roth on accordian and organ, producer Michael J. Birthelmer on piano and guitars, and Wayne Krawchuk on backups.

The album was chosen the #1 album for April 2014, by Penguin Eggs, the respected national folk, roots and world music magazine, calling it "Captivating from start to finish."

Rae was the previous lead singer and songwriter of the Toronto alt-country band,Crybaby. Lasting just three years, Crybaby won serious critical acclaim with the 1996 debut, Paintings (produced by Peter J. Moore). Toronto's Eye Magazine placed it alongside offerings from Lyle Lovettand Blackie & The Rodeo Kings as one of the Top Three Country Albums of 1996, with scribe Greg Boyd praising "the weary sensuality" of Rae's vocals.

The band also elicited kudos south of the border, specifically at Austin's famed South By Southwest Music Festival in 1997. Among the many positive reviews, visiting Nashville Scene writer, Michael McCall, characterized their music as "tangy country soul" and called Crybaby one of the "notable moments" at the festival.

In 2001, Rae put together a 'solo' album, again working with noted Toronto producer Peter J. Moore. This sonic sculptor has a well-deserved reputation for his distinct sound. Rae's first solo album was highly praised. On his cool Top Ten list of 'Anti-Hits', The Toronto Sun/ CANOE's John Sakamoto placed "Walking In A Dream", the closing cut from the album, as number 3, describing it as "a heartbreaking rumination on a mind 'slipping sideways.'"

With Blue Black Night, Rae re-established her connection with old friends, Cleave Anderson (Blue Rodeo) on drums, Steve Koch (Ron Sexsmith) on guitar and Derrick Brady (Hawksley Workman) on bass. On B3 and piano is Matt Horner (Mary Margaret O'Hara) and providing backups are Greg Clarke (Corndogs) and 'Lucky' Pete Lambert (Kensington Hillbillies), from Crybaby.

With Walls and Fences, Rae is back at the top of her game:

"Billing has one of those goose bumps-inducing voices... and she writes powerfully poetic songs." Kerry Doole, New Canadian Music

"With her character-filled, one of a kind voice and incredible lyrics, Rae weaves a unique, rootsy, alt-country atmosphere." Luis Pereira, Hamilton Blues Lovers

"There is a depth to her songs few contemporaries have yet to hone." Jason MacNeil, All Music Guide.

Band Members