Thank goodness for social media. Yeah, I know, it’s the great time suck and there are much better ways to spend your time – but to connect with old friends and even make a few new ones, you just can’t beat that one click shopping.
One night, while busy idling away some time catching up on what was happening in the world of Mafia Wars (yeah, don’t judge me – I recently stopped warring with strangers half way across the world), I stumbled across an old friend from high school that I had not spoken to since graduation more than a couple of years ago. Her sister had been a favorite English teacher of mine and this lady and I had even appeared together in a production of “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum” in our senior year.
And she was cute too, and since I was too painfully shy to talk to any girls, I never remarked on said cuteness…
A lot changed in the ensuing years and since you’re not terribly interested in my history – hell, I’m not that interested in my history either – let’s jump to the part where we trade a few emails and when I tell her about the Juke Joint and Time For The Blues, she tells me about her band, TheRain Crows.
“Send me an album,” I type and a couple of days later I get a pretty cool package in the mail filled with a CD and some promotional material. It’s not all blues by any means, but I like a lot of different styles of music, so stepping off of Memory Lane for a few minutes I give a listen to the present to see what The Rain Crows are all about.
The Rain Crows are made up of Bill Thompson III on vocals, guitars and bass, Julie Zickefoose on vocals and pennywhistle. Yes, I said pennywhistle, just stay with us. Wendy Clark Eller is on vocals and piano, Craig Gibbs on bass and guitars, plus harmonica and spoken vocals, Kage Queen on drums and Jessie Munson on fiddle. David Traugh served as the producer and added some synthesizers here and there.
If you like what you read and want to pick up the album, you can do that on iTumes, CDBaby, and Spotify.
Eller kicks off the album with a quietly controlled “Cotton Candy Sky,” an optimistic ode to getting one’s life together. For those of us who have reached a certain age, it’s an uplifting statement. Thompson takes over for the next song with the intriguing title “That Was The Day That Your Picture Came Down.” The lyrics are strong and his guitars are very good. “Cry Me A River” is a nostalgic, now-that-it’s-over song that starts out with a nice analogue feeling. Eller’s vocals and Queen’s brushes on the drums give it a smoky club vibe.
Thompson is back with “Fence Mending,” a decent outing, but I might have bumped up Traugh’s keyboards a little. The horns add a little spice to the proceedings. Then we come to my favorite song on the album, “Half Of My Heart.” The song was written by all four of the core members of the group and Eller’s piano and vocals dominate. She is assured and the musicianship on this song truly stands out. Thompson’s guitar sails and the rhythm section of Gibbs and Queen are strong. I would recommend this album just for this song alone, but the rest of it is mighty good too.
Thompson takes the next number, “Meteor,” a fun little love song enlivened by Zicefoose’s pennywhistle. Eller is back on lead vocals for “You’re The Real Thing.” We’re back on solid alt-Country ground which is where the group seems to be the most comfortable.
The first real blues number shows up about half way through. Remember, I said it was more Americana than anything else. “Dirt Road” has got some nice slide work by Gibbs, and Zickefoose takes the vocals with a deep earthy turn. You’ll be hearing it on Time For The Blues soon.
“I Can’t Believe” is a catchy number, the kind that always sounds like it would be fun live. Then The Rain Crows are back in their alt-Country groove with Eller taking back the lead vocals on “All Right.” It’s a sweet song, punctuated by Jessie Munson’s fiddle licks. Like several other songs on the album, this one has potential for air play.
Thompson takes the spotlight on “Haunted,” which also features Munson’s fiddle work. The song has a deep, Appalachian feel and its sparse instruments make the song stand out. “Distorted Reality” is next, a bouncy side that belies the dark lyrics. Eller has some fine vocals and Zickefoose has a nice counterplay – pennywhistle versus horns. Nice touch.
Zickefoose rocks it a little bit on “Tell Me” and the song is a straight ahead side. Thompson gets a guitar workout on the break and the song is strong. We’re kind of back in blues territory with “Rainy Day Nothing,” a decent song that just needs a little more of an edge. Thompson has a good voice, but here he just needs more of a growl to give it real bite. Eller slows things down with “So Long” and the effect is nice. She has a transcendent voice and Zickefoose’s pennywhistle gives the song an unusual exotic flavor. Munson’s fiddle tells us the country flavor for the last song on the album, “Goes Down The Right Way.” Zickefoose’s expressive alto works the song well, wringing emotion and ending the album on a good note.
The group wrote all of the 16 tracks on the CD in various ways. Thompson and Eller are the main conspirators, but the entire group contributes in some way to each of the songs. Their songwriting for the most part is good and inventive. I look forward to hearing more from the group in the future.
All in all, The Rain Crows are a delightful addition to the Professor’s Juke Box. The country flavor just adds the right spice to their Americana and Roots style approach. They sound like they would be a lot of fun to catch live, so you might want to keep up with their appearances either through Facebook or at www.reverbnation.com/theraincrows.(Logo of The Rian Crows artfully borrowed from the web. If you own the image and want us to remove it and not give you free publicity, well, go ahead and let us know. We'll take it off, but we won't send you a card on your birthday.)