Monday, August 25, 2008 East Bank Radio review of 'signs' In 2007, Knoxville based Slow Joe Crow issued their self-released album, Signs. The CD contains ten original songs, written by band members Jonathan and Brooke Sweet. In fact, it is Brooke Sweet's sweet vocals that anchor the album. Her husband, Jon, fills the role of rhythm guitarist. Slow Joe Crow is rounded out with Scott Gross on drums, Jeff Goins on lead guitar and Brad Crittenden on bass. Signs is a collection of tunes that might be described as country rock. It's a generally mellow, easy flowing piece of work that should have broad appeal, even among those that don't think of themselves of country fans. Don't get me wrong, this isn't just another easy listening album. It has some teeth, but not in the jangling, hard edged sense that is often associated with alt-country bands. The arrangements are straight forward and the lyrics are not unnecessarily complicated. The idea seems to be to get the message across, letting the songs speak for themselves. Brooke's breathy, quavering vocals are the mainstay on all the tracks. Though her voice doesn't have a marked twang, she has a delivery that most often comes across as a sort of hillbilly torch singer, if that makes any sense. It is the perfect compliment to the crisp, clear musical backing of her bandmates. What might not be immediately apparent when listening to Signs is that Slow Joe Crow are actually a Christian band. At least, that's what they've been known as in the past. This album drifts more toward the secular, but you won't find songs about drinking and cheating. 'It's Time' and 'Tonight', upon a close listen, are rather explicitly religious songs. Still, this is an album that will be enjoyed by anyone that likes a solid, Americana or folk rock style. If you're looking for traditional gospel, you won't find it on Signs. This is a band that clings to it's faith without being in your face about it. Their mission at the moment seems to be releasing good music, regardless of labels, and I'd strongly suggest that they've succeeded in doing so. 'Over Jordan', despite the title, isn't really one of the more religiously themed songs on the CD. It is, however, one of the stand out tracks on this project. There is a haunting sense of urgency in this song that is conveyed musically and, especially, by Mrs. Sweet's compelling vocals. It's a classic slice of Americana. 'Break Me' is a poignant love song that bears repeated listening. 'Smoky Mtn. Home' is another fine love song, dressed up as an homage to the band's East Tennessee surroundings. It is this type of universal message of life and love that dominates Signs. As such, one might say that Slow Joe Crow is a 'cross-over' band, but the usual connotations associated with that phrase aren't really fair here, in my opinion. Rather than a bland serving of music that isn't quite one thing or the other, Signs stands firmly on it's own two feet. It is what it is, without apology. It is strong, well executed material that should propel this regional act across new horizons.