About Crooked Mowth
Crooked Mowth is an a cappella trio (sometimes quartet) from the Boston area, conceived by three harmony-hungry friends during the COVID-19 pandemic. Haley Fisher, Jennie O’Brien, Jim Henderson, and James Gerke deliver a rich vocal blend and unique arrangements to songs old and new. Though the performers already have a comfortable home in the trad/folk style of singing, their goal is to make an impactful sound across genres.
When not singing or riding public transit (or sometimes both) Haley works in customer service for a travel company. Meanwhile, Jennie teaches music at the Perkins School for the Blind and at the New England Conservatory. Jim practices as a solo attorney, focusing on business and estate planning law. And James is a service manager for a digital media company and plays the chromatic button accordion (see the Halsway video!).
Have You Been Listening?
Our first EP was born from the idea that living through ‘unprecedented times’ is worth singing about. We are proud to deliver a sample of social justice-oriented songs spanning multiple centuries. Music has always inspired action, and the folk tradition in particular lends itself to themes of rebellion, speaking truth to power, yearning for an equitable future – we hope the same themes resonate with you as you make your way through the collection.
One of the musical approaches we want to take is to find songs from different eras and different cultures that fit a roughly common theme. So we begin with a song written nearly 400 years ago as a protest against intrusions by the landed gentry and others ‘in power’ upon the Diggers’ use of the land. The original poem has 12 verses, which are more than have usually been sung. Because some of the complaints raised in the poem are timely in the 21st century, we brought the message up to date by writing some verses of our own.
Jim insisted we leave in the verse about the lawyers though.
Introduced to us by our friend Sam Colton, Hegoak is a poem in the Basque language, reportedly written in opposition to the Franco regime and its efforts to outlaw the language. A rough English translation of the lyrics goes:
If I had cut off its wings,
He would’ve been mine; he wouldn’t have left.
Yes, but then,
He would’ve no longer been a bird!
And for me,
It was the bird that I loved.
This non-English song gave us a welcome chance to play with the musicality and color of the piece. Even before we learned the translation, we found that the song conveyed powerful feelings in its ‘vibes’ alone!
The story of Wenceslao Moguel is unique. Having been captured fighting on behalf of Pancho Villa, he was executed by firing squad … except that he survived and, as it turns out, lived until he was 85 years old. But his story sung as a ‘bop’, as Haley would call it, well for that we thank Chumbawamba (yes, them). Once we listened to the song, it was hard to get out of our ears – again, just ask Haley.
We were drawn to this song, originally recorded by British trio Coope, Boyes & Simpson, because of how it evokes some of the disturbing changes we have witnessed in American society over the past five years. Even though the song was first recorded 12 or so years ago, when we sing these lyrics we can’t help seeing certain events in Charlottesville some seven years later. We can’t begin to address the challenges we face if we don’t see them plainly. Have you been listening, indeed!
Our community theater group, In Good Company, had intended to include this song in a new musical play, but we thought we would give it a go first. With that in mind, we want to thank IGC’s former music director, Steven Lipsitt, for helping to put this arrangement together.
Our second video, from the EP “Have You Been Listening?”
Listen to the full EP here
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The Halsway Carol
Crooked Mowth came together in 2021, as we spent the year putting our first video together in celebration of the winter solstice.