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A self-proclaimed “church girl,” Crystal Monee Hall grew up belting from the choir loft, enamored with her mother’s singing on Sundays in Richmond, Virginia. And so began her early love affair with music, which played itself out in choruses, in glee clubs, and in her high school’s musical theatre productions. Eventually, she ended up directing her college gospel choir, Black Voices. In the sanctity of her tiny dorm room in the wee hours of the morning, she first started playing the piano and writing original music, recording her first songs on cheap tape recorders during study breaks.
On course to become an English teacher, Hall earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from The University of Virginia. But the music kept haunting her. “It never occurred to me that I would not do music in some form. I took a teaching position, then quit a month and a half in because I wanted to sing.” Almost immediately following this abrupt but destined career change, Hall was hired by Disney Entertainment for her first job as a performer.
The decade that has followed has brought Hall a host of accolades. She spent four years in the National Tour and Broadway productions of the Tony-Award winning musical RENT. She has played numerous venues on the east and west coasts including Yoshi’s and Joe’s Pub. Camille A. Brown & Dancers have danced to her blues music, and her rapturous wail underscores the Hurricane Katrina documentary, “After the Storm.” She has worked with renowned artists such as Spencer Day, Shayna Steele, Elton John, Jason Mraz, The Broadway Inspirational Voices, and The Jazz Mafia Symphony. Currently, she is the frontwoman for The Mickey Hart Band, led by Grateful Dead drumming legend Mickey Hart.
But through all of her career success, she has remained faithful to those church girl roots. This gospel sensibility resonates throughout Hall’s arrangements, juxtaposing itself against shades of acoustic folk and creating a postmodern storytelling tableau. Recalling the sepia-toned memories of her southern childhood, Hall’s music re-interprets vocal and composition styles immortalized by the likes of Bessie Smith, Donny Hathaway, and Joni Mitchell. The result is something akin to the imagined love child of Sam Cooke and Tracy Chapman, a prophetic fusion of folk, gospel, and regional blues that allows the listener to fall into the murky intersections between love and hate, pride and sacrifice, heaven and hell.