By Cait Brennan, December 2015 Issue.

Karen Crusher

Granite | 

It takes a lot to get “folk music” right. Even the genre is kind of a screwed-up concept; when most people say “folk music” they don’t really mean traditional folk-song music, they mean music played on an acoustic guitar. And the stereotypes run deep and harsh, from the out of touch ‘60s folkie singing about counting roads, to the Animal House “Twelfth Of Never” guitar-smash, to the humorless, agonizingly strident protest singer. What’s left out, though, is the true heart of the matter—the raw power and honesty of, say, the mighty Billy Bragg in his prime, or Frank Turner’s anthemic punk-folk, or Ani Difranco in her earliest, most daring days.

Photo by Cherise Briggs.
Courtesy of

Lucky for us, then, that we’ve got Karen Crusher. Crusher’s new self-released album, Granite, is a real treat that boasts nine powerful and lovely tunes that dispense with pretense and get to the heart of things.

“No Way Out” pulses with desperation, propelled by Crusher’s chunky, rhythmic guitar style and a strong, distinctive voice that cuts like the proverbial knife. Crusher is a great storyteller and conveys the sense of being trapped, cornered, frantic and wailing. “WiFi,” if it’s even possible, is actually faster-paced, a furious tempo that contrasts nicely with the yearning wanderlust of the lyric. (Fittingly, there is an actual ballad called “Wanderlust” a little later on the album, and it’s a great one.)

The songs and musicianship on the album are top notch; Crusher’s fingerpicking is exceptional, and her voice has that haunting high-desert-lonesome one hears in voices like that of Neko Case. “The Target” is a particular treat, with its rollicking off-kilter beat and expressive, tense vocal line. It recalls In My Tribe-era 10,000 Maniacs, and I rarely mean that as a compliment but in this case, it definitely is.

Crusher is based in Scottsdale and we’re lucky to have talent like this around. It would be great to hear how this work comes alive in a live setting. Granite is well worth checking out.

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