Artist of the Day: Joe Crookston

Posted by Greg on Feb 20, 2020 in Music |

Take a moment today and download/stream a song by Joe Crookston. Doesn’t really matter what song in the end, odds are you’ll most likely be moved. Though there are quite a few songs we prefer (more on that later), chances are whatever you land on will feature first-rate songwriting, lyrics that read like a novella and polished musicianship. Crookston, a native Ohioan, who calls Ithaca, NY home is something of a Renaissance man. In addition to his duties as a singer-songwriter, he’s also an accomplished fiddle player, slide guitarist, painter, teacher and tour guide.

Seen this past Valentine’s Day at Sarasota’s cozy Fogartyville Community Media and Arts Center, his set was resplendent from the very first note. Whether it was his inspired cover of Todd Rundgren’s “Love is the Answer” or his note-perfect take on Simon and Garfunkel’s “America,” there was something deeply resonant, personal and entrancing about every passing moment.

Maybe it was his penchant for playing new songs, including the intricate “Photography” and the Odyssey-inspired “The Olive Tree.” Or maybe it was his nod towards his predecessors. In his first set he included the bluegrass-tinged “Pretty Saro” and the ubiquitous traditional “Wayfaring Stranger.” Arguably his strongest song on slide guitar was the taut and tender “A Little Bit Lovely.”

After a 20-minute set break, Crookston returned with arguably his two strongest songs, the buoyant “Good Luck John” and the impeccable “The Letters of Florence Hemphill.” The latter song is based on letters written by a nun to service members fighting during World War I. The former is a tense tale of a man and his horse that seems eerily culled from the Greenwich Village folk scene circa 1965.

Another new song appeared in the form of the provocative “Something to Believe,” a song which served as almost a companion to his cover of Mary Gauthier’s “Mercy Now,” which appeared early on in the first set. One of his most melodic came in the form of the Annie Lamott-inspired “Bird by Bird” and another new song, tentatively titled “Wingman Flyer.” The latter is a song about plane flight that absolutely smolders long after the final second. Ditto for the pensive “Gates of the Empire” and the melancholic closer “Fall Down as the Rain.” Crookston is a gifted entertainer as well and showed his humorous side with the jocular “Big Bug In My Beer” and the absolutely hilarious “Wheel Wagon,” an attempt to cover Old Crow Medicine Show’s “Wagon Wheel” with slightly altered lyrics and melodies.

In sum it was a memorable night from an artist who does little, if anything, wrong. Chances are the name Joe Crookston is new to you, but let this editorial be a lesson. This is a name you absolutely ought to know.

SETLIST
I Still Love You (new song, unreleased)
Mercy Now (Mary Gauthier cover)
Love Is the Answer (Todd Rundgren cover)
Photography (new song, unreleased)
Wayfaring Stranger (traditional)
Brooklyn in July
Pretty Saro (traditional)
The Olive Tree (new song, unreleased)
Ring on Her Hand (new song, unreleased)
A Little Bit Lovely (new song, unreleased)

break

Good Luck John
The Letters of Florence Hemphill
Something to Believe (new song, unreleased)
The Crow and the Bluebird
Bird By Bird
Big Bug in my Beer (new song, unreleased)
Wingman Flyer (new song, unreleased)
Wheel Wagon (new song, unreleased)
Gates of the Empire
America (Simon & Garfunkel cover)
Fall Down as the Rain

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