The new five-member version of Crooked Still converged to mingle their creative processes at Allaire Studios in upstate New York, with producer Eric Merrill for Still Crooked. The album balances unknown traditional material with three new tunes from the band, along with "Did You Sleep Well?" by fellow old time musician Nathan Taylor, and a Mississippi John Hurt standard. The entire album was recorded "live" in one big room, with everyone playing together. Merrill captured most songs in one or two takes. "I was outside in the hallway, because my voice is so quiet," O'Donovan says. "Recording live, you don't have an option to overdub; that always makes a better album."
With Haas and Clarridge, the band has proven themselves to be even more adventurous, breathing their cosmic fire into old songs. "When Rushad left, we wanted to move in new directions," O'Donovan says. "Brittney adds another female presence to the band; I can hear my voice in her fiddling. Tristan has a refined cello tone, with a powerful, restrained energy. They bring a fresh outlook to the arrangements that keeps the music exciting."
"We rehearsed for a few days before we recorded," Clarridge says. "We'd listen to a source recording, strip the songs to the bone and build an arrangement incorporating everyone's ideas. It's fun to see how many directions you can take a song." Everyone brought material for consideration. "As we worked on the songs, we realized there was a lot of loss and mortality in the lyrics," banjo player Greg Liszt adds. "You can't make a folk album without delving into what's happening now and we were surprised at how current the songs sounded. On 'Captain, Captain' a woman asks what happened to her lover and the Captain replies 'he dropped down dead in the gulf.' It's a 400-year-old line, but it gives you chills."
Still Crooked is an ensemble effort of inspired music making that moves the bands' impossible- to-pigeonhole style in new directions while honoring their folk roots. "It's hard to pin down our music," bass player Corey DiMario says. "We play improvised old time music, bluegrass, folk and our own songs within the broad context of a string band. Like a lot of today's bands, we have modern and traditional influences that confuse the boundaries. We want to keep blurring those lines to make something all our own."