“The joy with which the band plays is palpable, both live and on record, and one only needs to take a gander at the miles-wide smiles of both the group on stage and the audience to know this music is affecting people on a very real level.” – Donovan Farley, Jambase
After playing their first show in June of 2014, the band quickly gained momentum and attention at pubs and venues across Portland and the Pacific Northwest. Fast forward one year, countless shows, and a summer jam-packed with festival appearances, they’ve just released their debut full-length album, LEAVING SOON, a master class in contemporary American roots music, with the indie-folk relevance of The Head and The Heart and the stomping, rural-folk authenticity of John Hartford.
A collaborative spirit of friendship shines through on Leaving Soon. Although the band has only been playing together for a few years, Crow and the Canyon sound like a band of age-old collaborators and friends. The album’s heartfelt yet cerebral lyrics, delicate vocals, and choral harmonies are endlessly listenable, while also remaining inventive and interesting. It’s a refreshingly contemplative take on high-spirited Americana songwriting which rewards repeated listening, garnering them a beloved reputation that keeps music lovers returning time and time again to partake in their charismatic, heartfelt, and engaging performances. Weaving back and forth between precise bluegrass, heartland acoustic folk-rock, and bluesy country, the result is series of songs that sound just as natural on a front porch in the heat of summer as by the furnace of a dimly-lit basement pub in the dead of winter.
A large part of who Crow and the Canyon are as a band comes from the diverse backgrounds of the members. Ben Larsen, principal songwriter, vocalist, and guitar-and-mandolinist, originally from Connecticut, came to Portland’s Lewis and Clark College. There, he began studying jazz guitar, eventually shifting focus to classical mandolin, playing with several formidable acts after college, including Renegade Stringband, and Allie Kral (Yonder Mountain String Band). “My last band, The Giraffe Dodgers, broke up just before everyone else moved to town in January, 2014,” say Larsen. “I started playing with Austin as a duo, then Miles, and then finally Leigh, when she joined us for our first show as Crow and the Canyon in June of that year.” “I feel like our story is a very ‘Portland’ story,” says vocalist Leigh Jones, a North Carolina native who studied at NYU before moving to Portland. “None of us knew each other beforehand, but Austin, Miles, and I all independently moved here within a month of each other with the intention of finding people to play music with. It didn’t take long to find each other.” Originally from Savannah, GA, banjo player Austin Quattlebaum was raised on Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix records before delving into bluegrass while living in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Bassist Miles Berry is a Northern California- native whose blues-musician father introduced him to jazz and West African highlife music. “Portland is a melting pot for creative people,” says Quattlebaum.
Throughout the songs on Leaving Soon, a common theme emerges – that of being on the brink of entering into a new phase of life, love, and creativity. “You’re often left a bit trepidatious about leaping into the unknown and losing what you’ll inevitably have to leave behind,” says Jones. And that’s certainly something the members of Crow and the Canyon know well, each having left behind their homes to take a gamble on finding artists to make a life with. So far, however, that gamble has paid off, with Leaving Soon marking the beginning of what promises to be a fruitful and rewarding journey, for not only Crow and the Canyon, but contemporary American roots music as well.