Just over three years ago, I set-up Halfway 2 Nowhere as a personal venture. A way of keeping a log of the great music I saw at underground festivals like Kazoopa in Leeds, the music that I found retweeted by peers, those special songs from special bands you think are going places. Over time, the blog has grown, I’ve had countless opportunities to watch bands I’d never have thought to and discovered some belters along the way. Nowadays, Halfway 2 Nowhere is a blog, a radio show and a podcast about beer and coffee and few things genuinely inspire me to start typing about music. The industry hasn’t become stagnant, but over time, I’ve found myself using the same words, making lazy comparisons, so I’ve left the music side of H2N to be run by others. That said, my love, my passion will always be grassroots music, talent that simply needs to be discovered, and the band that epitomises that most for me in the UK right now, is The Crooks.
Let’s take things back…to 2014
Before I talk about The Crooks, the 5-piece hailing from Chesterfield, let me talk to you about two other Crooks, Brandon and Kiaran, two founding members of Sheffield’s The Sherlocks. I distinctly remember the first time I ever heard their track Live for the Moment, way back in 2014, in a B&B in Rathcoole, Ireland. I was getting ready for a family occasion, and came across it on YouTube. Back then the band were little known, and I went to numerous shows where my girlfriend and I, along with their dad Michael Crook were the majority of the audience. How does this relate to Chesterfield’s The Crooks I hear you ask?
Well, in that moment, those 3 minutes or so I heard, it was the first time I knew I wanted to be involved in music. I knew in that second, The Sherlocks were going to be a band that went onto do big things. It took some time, but six years later the band are due to release their third record, having their debut chart in the Top Ten in the UK charts. I’ve seen bands come and go in those six years, predicted bright futures for many and many have faded away. Since hearing Live for the Moment in 2014 though, I can honestly say I’ve never felt the same emotion, attachment, and overwhelming sense of “something special is going to happen here” until this year, when I was introduced to The Crooks and “She Walks Alone”.
Goosebumps. That was the overriding feeling the first time I heard The Crooks. Jacko, Chris Stones, Duncan Couch, Conor Fletcher and Jonathan Keeler, as a five-piece have more talent than they know and gone are the days of lazy comparisons on Halfway 2 Nowhere, and I’ve seen several for this band. Oasis, The Verve, Richard Ashcroft, every other britpop artist from the 90s and I don’t agree. Yes, at times, you can draw comparisons vocally to some of these artists, but with the two tracks “She Walks Alone” and “In Time”, this band lyrically are surpassing many of those artists already, and this music is special, real special.
Earlier this year, The Crooks took the two tracks I’ve fallen in love with “She Walks Alone” and “In Time” to new heights with the release of Volume 1. I’m not here to review the original tracks, I’ve played them enough on my radio show, you all know my love and affection for those. This piece is to marvel at Volume 1, the acoustic, stripped back versions of the two standouts of 2020.
Few songs make me stop in my tracks. Like genuinely stop, stop writing, stop thinking, just listen in the moment. “In Time” (Acoustic/Orchestral) is one of those songs. Lyrically beautiful; “A conversation with hindsight designed to put you right on the edge of a joyous revelation”, this version sends emotions firing through my entire being that hasn’t been done by music for some time.
“If you could turn the hands yourself. Would you hold on to your wealth? Would you change what you have done? Or just move on and just accept what we’ve become.”
The beauty, the simplicity in those lyrics can be related to by someone, in a moment in time, for different reasons, with different meanings. The way it’s delivered in this rendition of “In Time” allows you to hand on to every word, every lick and every individual implication these words may have on your life.
Musically, the string section, the progression, the stripped back acoustic guitar, perfectly in tune all complement the powerful, heartfelt vocals. Every time I listen, mood depending, I either get punched in the heart with pain and negative feelings, I get an overwhelming sense of happiness and a rush of joy, or I feel emotionless, completely lost in the words and music of The Crooks. It’s sensational and I have so much love for this version of the song.
“She Walks Alone” is a song I didn’t think could be made any better than the original. If you haven’t heard the song, let me copy their words about the meaning of the song.
She Walks Alone is a story of how someone destined for failure can still be the light in someone else’s life. Looking through a window of fantasy and knowing that the bond between the two is the only thing that matters yet can never be. Allow the moment produced by this emotive sound to take you to that land of make believe and know that nothing can stop you from loving those that may always walk alone.
Again, like “In Time” so simple yet so complex at the same time, allowing for cascading emotions and feelings with every listen.
This version shows vulnerability. It’s stripped back and there’s nothing for frontman Jacko to hide behind on this. And being honest, it’s five minutes of pure genius. The original is a big indie-anthem, made for festival stages, worthy of greatness, but this Volume 1 version shows the quality, and simplicity of this band whilst really showing off how significant they can be in the music scene. The acoustic version of a track is normally a nominal slowing down of a track, coupled with an acoustic guitar where there would be electric. On Volume 1, The Crooks have thought out every atmospheric note, each string carefully selected, and these are almost more technical and brilliant than the originals.
I could probably write, and talk about these two songs for hours; they’ve energised my love for writing about music again, and have taken me right back to when I fell for music full stop.
Listen to the two in all their glory here and go pick up a very limited vinyl.