Jae Note Music

Any band that has been around for over twenty years is bound to have accumulated a wide range of influences. The Crooked Jades began their journey back in 1996, and their musical backbone continues to be defined by old-time music. Their newest CD, Empathy Moves The Water, includes six traditional songs and a handful of old tunes among the album’s 13 tracks. While there’s a solid recurring core of Emily Mann’s fiddle and Erik Pearson’s banjo, there are usually some elements added to the mix to make their renditions unique.

It might be a touch of Bruce Kaphan’s pedal steel guitar, the processed vocals of guitarist Jeff Kazor, various permutations of slide guitar by various players, or moody atmospheric arrangements that place the songs in fresh and unfamiliar contexts. “Down To The River” showcases Lisa Berman’s singing over a sinuous shuffle, while “Wade In The Water” has an almost sinister quality that belies its gospel roots. It’s almost a relief to the ears when “Long Time Traveling” is allowed to shine simply as an a cappella trio of Mann, Berman, and bassist Megan Adie, only to be reprised as a haunting instrumental coda to “Am I Born To Die.”

For my personal taste, their imaginative arrangements leave a more lasting impression than their handful of originals. Creating new and distinctive sonic soundscapes seems to be the group’s forte, and the grounding in traditional musical elements adds a welcome depth and weight to the recording. I counted over two dozen different instruments used on this CD, and it’s clear that putting old music in fresh contexts is the band’s mission. If you don’t mind having your ears and expectations played with, you’ll appreciate the fresh approach that the Crooked Jades bring to timeless music. (

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