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Galwegian Adrian is flying on the wings of poetry

adrian crowley

I See Three Birds Flying

(Chemikal Undergound)


The Dublin-based Galwegian Adrian Crowley remains something of a fringe attraction. He is one of the country's most acclaimed songwriters, yet his contemporaries David Kitt, Fionn Regan, Lisa Hannigan -- the list goes on -- are far better known.

Winning the Choice Music Prize in 2009 for his album, Season of the Sparks, didn't seem to widen his fanbase and his triumph caused much head-scratching for the critics, most of whom appeared to consider his previous effort, Long Distance Swimmer, to be the superior work.

I See Three Birds Flying is also unlikely to enjoy wide appeal (although Lauren Laverne's championing on BBC 6Music may help), but Crowley's songwriting is quietly spectacular, and easily the match of Long Distance Swimmer.

Crowley takes the business of lyric-writing very seriously indeed.

The Saddest Song -- which finds the singer ruminating on the business of penning a love-lorn ballad -- is a case in point: "Then I folded up the tear-soaked page, Of careworn lines and forlorn phrases." It's only when you pay attention to a lyricist of this quality that you realise how prosaic most verse is.

Also noteworthy is Crowley's sensitive use of instrumentation. He understands the power of a minimal approach -- but is not averse to using strings (courtesy of London duo Geese and Cork cellist Kevin Murphy) when the songs call for them.

And he's careful not to employ fussy adornments -- the scourge of many a songwriter several albums into their career.

Adrian Crowley is the sort of musician the listener has to work to appreciate. There's every chance some will struggle with a man who favours tone and texture over catchy melodies, but stick with him, and his silky baritone, and the rewards come.

Much like Bill Callahan -- the Chicago singer also known as Smog and to whom Crowley's laconic style owes a large debt -- Crowley has refused to compromise on the principles he holds dear and his unwillingness to sacrifice his art for commercial gain should be celebrated.

KEY TRACKS The Saddest Song; At the Starlight Hotel

Day & Night