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Click here for a wonderful and scholarly essay by Peter Timmerman
giving his thoughts on The "Flight of Fancy" CD

Review from Penguin Eggs Magazine - Winter 2011

Musical friends get together and do some playing. It seems to work, both for them and audiences, so they continue on. In some cases these collaborations stagnate, doing the same thing over and over again, or they fizzle out, having run their natural course. But in some ideal situations, the collaborations grow artistically and continue to take satisfying steps forward with each new outing.

With their third album, Ontario’s Joanne Crabtree and Paul Mills seem to be following just that path. Since they officially became Crabtree&Mills about five years ago, what began and sounded like two old friends sharing tunes around a dining room table has grown into two excellent musicians making new, relevant and wonderful music together.

The arrangements are not as sparse as in their past recordings but are still very gentle and tasteful. With the addition of Al Cross on drums and Russ Boswell on electric bass on about half the tunes, Crabtree&Mills achieve a lovely band.

In addition to the stellar playing and singing, the lyrical content of the 14 songs range from the wild west to the Avro Arrow to 12-step programs both successful and failed.

Rise Above is a pleasure to listen to. Good on ya, Crabtree&Mills.

– By Les Sieminiuk

Singer-songwriter Garth Douglas comments on Crabtree&Mills' performances at Ontario's Eaglewood Folk Festival, summer of 2010 ...  

Hi kids ... just wanted to pass along kudos for your performances over the weekend. Honestly you guys have never sounded better. I have heard We Sailed Away at least ten times and I never get tired of it but that afternoon at the song swap on Sunday was the best. Tears welled up - Jo it was amazing how many folks in that audience were in the same shape I was - wiping away drops on their faces. Paul, your guitar work was great as usual but I was happy to see (and hear) the way you two have jelled. It was funny, not harsh in any way and just worked like a charm. ...Tai and I saw you 3 times over the weekend and never felt that we had overdosed! Loved it. ... See you both soon ... Garth

Toronto singer-songwriter Phillip Brown on Joanne's writing:

What I love particularly about how you seem to be writing is your constant evolution. Just from the material that I have heard you play in the last year and the stories that you have told about it, it became very clear to me that you are in a constant state of emotional and artistic flux. This seems to deeply influence your writing. And not in a bad way I might add. Many people try to stick to a formula to writing, which usually yields a monotonous similarity in their work. You seem to just let the ink flow when blood and sometimes tears do. That is really honest writing. I dig it!

Reviews for our YouTube Videos

Well, good for the two of you. The songs are evocative and well-crafted, and the singing is first  class. - Si Kahn

Joanne and Paul. That is FANTASTIC. Joanne, that is one of the best songs I've heard in years. You rock gal. - Bruce Murdoch

Fantastic song, production and videos. You also sound and look amazing, Joanne! So does Paul! - Debbie Flemming

Woo Hoo! Great tune!! I love it. - Jed Marum

 

Reviews for "Freedom":

From Penguin Eggs:

Joanne Crabtree's biography on her website says she was "formerly Joanne Hindley-Smith" and "my career as a solo folksinger began in 1960 at a Grey Cup party at Toronto's Park Plaza Hotel and ended in 1966 at Toronto's Riverboat in Yorkville."

Well, not really. She came back to music in the '90s and this collaboration is a wonderful recording featuring Joanne's lovely, lovely voice and the astonishingly simple yet magical guitar accompaniment of Paul Mills.

The two seem made for each other's musical company and together produce a simple, seemingly effortless, yet extremely polished album of 15 songs - most originals, a couple of traditional pieces and songs by Kieran Kane and Dave Clarke.

There is no pushing the boundaries here, no musical acrobatics or revelations, just folk music performed in its simplest form: a good singer and a good player. You can't really go wrong.

Freedom is basic good music willingly shared, and feels like how it probably was on a good night at the Riverboat in them ole days.

- by les siemieniuk

 

From Steve Clarke:

As a folk DJ, I receive a lot of new music for consideration.  Some is good, some needs work and occasionally a real gem gets loaded into my CD player and that was the case with Freedom, the latest effort from Joanne Crabtree and Paul Mills.  They have done themselves proud with this, their second album as a duo.

Freedom has a wonderful balance of vocals and pared back instrumentation that enhance each and every track.  No gimmicks here, just straightforward, from the heart lyrics and always friendly melodies.  Each arrangement is able to get to the core of the subject matter, simply and elegantly.

The musical partnership goes far beyond simply playing and singing however.  Joanne Crabtree has polished her song-writing skills to a high gloss, both on her own (We Sailed Away, Ballad for Lee, Merciful Shepherd), and in collaboration with others including Mr. Mills (I Told You, Miss Lady Luck, The Flat Next Door, The Price of Freedom).  In addition to his larger role as a vocalist, Paul Mills shows us once again why he is considered a masterful record producer as well as one of the top fingerstyle guitar players around.

Both Joanne and Paul clearly had a great deal of fun in making this album.  It’s clear from the joyful interaction of their voices and in their guitar work on each track. 

Freedom by Crabtree and Mills on Free & Easy Music: fifteen tracks – a highly recommended album.

Steve Clarke
Host: Acoustic Planet on Erin Radio (CHES 101.5 FM)
Thursdays 8 to 10 pm
Streaming broadcast at: www.erinradio.ca

From Lynn Harrison:

I found "Freedom" to be a confident and refreshing collection of traditionally-inspired songs, with a frank 'tell-it-like-it-is' quality and a sense of worldly wisdom from people in the prime of life.

Lynn Harrison, Singer-songwriter
www.lynoleum.com

From Helen Crowe:

I just listened to your CD and am speechless! Temporarily. You were wonderful before......but this CD was about 10 million times more sensational! The guitars and songs...Paul's voice was perfect with yours......and yours was richer and even more attuned to every nuance and note. My god...you have a talent Jo. I loved every song and a few in particular...'Close to You'....'Merciful Shepherd', 'In Love Tonight', 'Heave Away Johnny' and I did cry for 'We Sailed Away'. 'Only Love' was amazing and I loved 'The Flat Next Door', 'The Price of Freedom' and I want 'I Can't Wait' sung at my funeral. Well.....the few were actually all (with a large number of specials).

WOW! I'm just going to listen to it again. And I can't wait.

From John Charles Daly:

I was honoured to have been invited to attend, the presentation of their second cd produced:   Crabtree & Mills’ FREEDOM at Hugh’s Room in Toronto’s west end on January 8th, 2009.  As I entered this venue, and saw the many already seated at dinner and hearing clanking glasses and the sounds of a full hall’s worth of conversation, it immediately struck me that there was hardly a face I did not recognize from the many communities I have known throughout, and all brought together to be warmed on this early January evening’s bitter cold by this beaming fire of friendly faces yet to do their show on a stage still dark.  Dark except for Paul Mills in the shadows, tuning guitars, adjusting microphones and on-stage seating, then running to confer with Jason Laprade (doing sound).  He seemed to be generally overseeing everything in its place. 

As the show took form and launched successfully into its first half, it had the look to me of a gently rocking boat at sea.  Bob Hewus played bass-fiddle from the rear of the stage, well containing each tune played with a confident in-the-groove beat I likened to the look of the tiller man.  Up in the crow’s nest was Tom Leighton squawking his many special arrangements, keeping the crew constantly informed with a seemingly endless array of instruments: the banjo, the whistle, the accordion, the brilliant keyboard playing, and something that well sounded like a snare drum being played with brushes but upon offering a closer inspection revealed some kind of a put-together wooden box from a wine crate tricked with a snare inside.  In the wheelhouse Paul Mills sang and played the many steel-string guitars with such fluid movement that one would almost think that the strings were made of silk.  Paul could also be heard above the song, in true Captain’s form, inspiring the audience shouting, “Sing you sissies!” 


As for the boat itself, cutting through the water, carrying this evening’s performance, the angelic soulful voice of Joanne Crabtree lifting song after song into this ever-heightening journey.  The cd’s title, “Freedom” seems to mark reflections on the many doors seemingly sealed out of fear from a past, now creak to open again into an anticipated wider landscape of exploration into freedom, and as can be heard on this piece of work by Crabtree & Mills, FREEDOM has such must-be-heard songs ringing true to our time.  I walk hopeful with these songs playing in my mind and too, with a breath of optimistic satisfaction.  “What’s the Price of Freedom?”

If you missed this, you can still go have a listen to Crabtree & Mills and all of their works.

www.joannecrabtree.com/crabtree&mills

From the Montreal Gazette:

CRABTREE & MILLS: Freedom (Free & Easy Music) The second album by Toronto singer-songwriter Joanne Crabtree and dazzling guitarist – and occasional singer Paul Mills – is built around Crabtree’s fine singing and songwriting and Mills’s always tasty, and sometimes hot, picking. ****

MIKE REGENSTREIF
The Montreal Gazette

From Steve Pritchard:

In a word, FREEDOM is inspiring.

It harkens back to what we called "folk" in the mid 60's.

FREEDOM is fresh, bright, and joyful.

It is the kind of effort that initially spawned my love for folk music.  It's not complicated, but it is complex, with intensity, heart, and a spirit rarely seen in younger musicians.  Joanne and Paul have indeed ripened with age.

There is nothing on this project that I don't like and a lot that lingers long after the CD is back in the case. I especially liked "Lost John Dean" - they dig into it as if they wrote it. How sweet is that!

Rest assured FREEDOM will find a home not on your CD shelf but rather in your head....

Steve Pritchard  CIUT radio..

 

Reviews for "Flight of Fancy":

Toronto Star Review:

 “The second duet recording by Canadian folk music boomers, singer/guitarist Joanne Crabtree (formerly Joanne Hindley-Smith) and primo picker/producer Paul Mills is a warm and friendly confluence of vintage song and old-guard spirit. The generous all-acoustic package offers six Crabtree originals, a couple of traditional pieces and a selection of covers ranging from Stephen Foster's "Oh Susannah" to Cole Porter's "Miss Otis Regrets", from Ry Cooder's and John Hiatt's "Across The Borderline" to contemporary compositions by rustic recidivists Kevin Welch and Kieran Kane. While the set contains few spine-chilling musical moments (Mills' understated and graceful work on the Porter piece is one, as is his trademark "New York-style" fingerpicking on other key cuts), it's clear these two artists complement each other well, and are very comfortable exploring their shared passion for the tuneful, light-hearted and sentimental folk and jug-band music of their youth. Crabtree & Mills launch their sophomore effort tonight with a concert at Hugh's Room (www.hughsroom.com, tickets $18 at the door). If their sold-out show there several months back is anything to go by, this will likely be one of the year's big Canadian roots music moments,”

- Greg Quill, Toronto Star  

From Australia:

Crabtree &  Mills are a duo of Joanne Crabtree and Paul Mills. Well Paul once again shows his considerable skills as a guitarist, producer and Recording  Engineer. Not that that takes anything away from Joanne's great voice,  actually Paul has enhanced the voice by keeping the arrangements  uncluttered. They are assisted by their sons, Ed Crabtree and Trevor  Mills. Most of the songs come from the pen of Joanne. Folk, Blues and Jazz  alternate and give the CD a great balance. Definitely one to look out  for.

- Henk de Weerd, "Good Morning Folk" 5EBI103.1FM in Adelaide, South Australia

 

From Mark Haines:

There is a compelling collaboration afoot in the Crabtree & Mills recording, "Flight Of Fancy". Paul Mills and Joanne Crabtree obviously enjoy a balance of sound and energy that can only happen when there is an equal give and take between the players. Here, two gifted musicians, tempered by time and edged by experience, have given flight to a fine set of original and collected tunes. Sometimes joined by progeny Trevor Mills and Ed Crabtree, they quite comfortably span the idioms of folk and ragtime blues with occasional forays into the land of swing. The songs, sometimes thought provoking and sometimes fanciful rants, are a perfect vehicle for Joanne's distinctive and expressive vocals. As always, Paul's delightful and imaginative guitar playing is everything from superbly supportive to downright titillating. Add his smoothly blended harmony vocals and you've got an ear-friendly product from beginning to end. There is an honesty in the performance and production of this recording, and it is this same honesty that has given folk music its universal and timeless appeal. Crabtree & Mills are real people, playing real music, engaging us, entertaining us, encouraging us to their "Flight Of Fancy".

 

Reviews For the Duo:

From the presenters of a recent house concert:

We wanted to let you know that we received total positive feedback from the concert last night. Your stories were wonderful and you crafted a performance that was both professional and intimate. This can only come from performers that are comfortable with themselves, with each other, and masters of their art. Your program was very well chosen, appealing to everyone. My daughter and her friends have been playing your CDs this afternoon and transferring the songs onto their ipods. 

I think what impressed people here most is your friendliness and your 'down to earth' good natures, your mastery of performance and your breadth of experience.

From Helen Crowe:

You and Paul make amazing music together...it really does seem effortless how the sound flows and moves and finds one powerful voice. We enjoyed and enjoyed.......and enjoyed your artistry, and fun and creativity and emotional fluency....and experiences of your joy.....and thank you.....It was the best! All I can say is......universe, what took you so long. We have all been waiting for Crabtree&Mills.