In 1996 Toronto alt-country band Crybaby released their sole recording, Paintings (produced by Peter J. Moore). The band lasted just four years, but won critical acclaim with Toronto's Eye Magazine placing the album alongside offerings from Lyle Lovett and Blackie & The Rodeo Kings as one of the Top Three Country Albums of 1996.
The band also elicited kudos south of the border, specifically at Austin's South By Southwest Music Festival. Among the many positive reviews, Nashville Scene writer Michael McCall characterized their music as "tangy country soul" and called Crybaby one of the "notable moments" of the festival.
Lead singer and songwriter Rae Billing has a voice described as "honest and pure, assured and desperate at the same time" and "shiver-inducing;" her lyrics and music as "full of wide open spaces and bittersweet emotions," and "late night, pan-Americana rootsy songs... handled with gutsy femininity."
After Crybaby, Rae went on to record three albums under her own name with a number of Canadian powerhouse musicians. Her 2001 'solo' album was praised. On his cool Top Ten list of 'Anti-Hits', the Toronto Sun/CANOE's John Sakamoto placed "Walking In A Dream", the closing cut, as number three, describing it as "a heartbreaking rumination on a mind 'slipping sideways.'"
Her 2008 recording, Blue Black Night, again received critical acclaim, with CBC Radio's Jeff Goodes choosing it as his top Pick Of The Month. And 2013's Walls and Fences was chosen as the monthly Number One Album by Canada's respected national roots magazine Penguin Eggs, describing it as "captivating from start to finish".
Late in 2016, Rae brought Crybaby back together to play two 20 year anniversary shows. Alongside Rae, the reunited band includes Steve Koch (Ron Sexsmith) on guitar and Lucky Pete Lambert (Kensington Hillbillies) on drums and backups with the addition of respected Hamilton musicians, Andrew Aldridge (Sarah Slean) on guitar, Greg Brisco (Junkhouse) on keys and Scott Bell (Dinner Belles) on bass.
With the music sounding so good, they went back in the studio to do their version of the renowned Bobby Gentry single Ode to Billie Joe. While the music was flowing, they couldn't resist recording one of Rae's songs... and that led to recording ten more of her songs.
The album, Still, due for release in April of 2018, Crybaby (redux!) is stronger than ever.
Cover Story April 14, 2018 RIC TAYLOR VIEW MAGAZINE, HAMILTON
"Really take time to listen to the lyrics as they have an honesty to them you don't often find in music today." May 2018 KATE JONES, ORCASOUND, MONTREAL
Previous album reviews:
"Billing has one of those goose bumps-inducing voices... and she writes powerfully poetic songs," KERRY DOOLE, NEW CANADIAN MUSIC
"There are not many albums that catch you by the throat as this one and no matter how often you hear it, the feeling remains." ROOTSTIME, BELGIUM
"A purely great, soulful album that adds even more credibility to alternative country," MAVERICK MAGAZINE, UK
"Billing's voice is a remarkably fluid and expressive instrument, honest and pure, assured and desperate at the same time." Greg Quill, Toronto Star.
With her next album, Blue Black Night, Rae re-established her connection with old friends, Cleave Anderson (Blue Rodeo) on drums, Steve Koch (Crybaby, Ron Sexsmith) on guitar and Derrick Brady (Hawksley Workman, Serena Ryder) on bass. Plus, on B3 and piano was Matt Horner (Mary Margaret O'Hara) and providing backups were Greg Clarke (Corndogs) and Lucky Pete Lambert (Crybaby, Kensington Hillbillies), plus a guest appearance by Garth Hudson on The Dream. Again, the album was critically lauded...
"There are not many albums that catch you by the throat as this one does... Blue Black Night is such a rare moment." Freddy Celis, Rootstime, Belgium.
"There is a depth to Billing's voice that reaches into the soul and it's complemented perfectly by Steve Koch's guitarwork." Graham Rockingham, Hamilton Spectator
Then, in 2013, Rae, working with her band at that time, the multi-talented Unpayables, created Walls and Fences. The Unpayables consisted of Matt Coleman on violin/fiddle, Andrew Aldridge on electric guitar, K. Michael Hickey on electric and upright bass, Nick Burson on drums, plus the talents of Ed Roth on accordian and organ, producer Michael J. Birthelmer on piano and guitars, and Wayne Krawchuk on backups.
Walls and Fences was chosen as the Number One Album of the Month by Penguin Eggs magazine and described as "captivating from start to finish."
"Powerfully poetic songs," Kerry Doole, All Canadian Music
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