The Birds EP
Crooked Keys aren’t out to break any new ground. On the band’s debut outing, The Birds EP, it draws from tried-and-true American folk, country, and soul traditions, and combines them into a very accessible and memorable package, thanks in large part to pianist-vocalist Leah Kowalewski. The only drawback to this approach is that when guitarist Joe Hense takes the lead on “Wanderlust,” it sounds like a different band entirely—although not a bad one. Based on The Birds, the vocals and songwriting are ready for prime time, but in some cases, the musical chops are not.
There are a few glitches in the guitar playing—Hense and Kyle Short don’t seem to be on the same page at times during “The Birds,” and a few of the lead licks on the record are more ambitious than their fingers can quite pull off. These minor distractions won’t be what stick with you, though. The main attraction is Kowalewski’s voice. She manages to project a combination of innocence and maturity without being drab or stuffy. Lest you mistake her for a teetotaler, she throws a naughty word into “Done Me Wrong” for good measure, though the music definitely creates at least an echo of religiosity. The concept of prayer shows up in two of the four tracks, and while the vintage organ sounds and confessional lyrics of “Rightfully Mine” belie Kowalewski’s sultry moans, there’s no preaching to be heard. This is pop music—not challenging, but heartfelt; not polished in all the right ways, but a good start.
You can stream or download The Birds EP here.