Anyone who’s not only been making albums for more than 20 years, but ones that stack up awards in his native country, is bound to know a lot about the craft of songwriting. Ireland’s Adrian Crowley delivers the goods on his ninth LP. Each word registers without undue force, each line fits perfectly into place, and each melody flows with outrageously easy grace. If Crowley were a carpenter, you’d want him to build your house. The ease with which his baritone voice navigates each melody points your attention toward the lyric and away from the patient fluency of his phrasing.
But there’s more to The Watchful Eye Of The Stars than artisanal skill. Consider these lines: “You took the knots from the oak tree/The ash from the fire/The dust from the lava field/And last year’s wine/And you mix them together with your slender white hands/And you wear the colours of the night.” Yep, someone just threw a spell, and that doesn’t just require skill; it takes magic.
Whether he’s singing about a lovelorn mope laying low in a seaside town or a crow coming back from near death, there’s an otherworldly quality to Crowley’s songs. It lurks in the details, like the strings swinging low behind the waltz beat of “A Shut-In’s Lament” or the eerie voice calling from behind the mellotron drapery of “The Colours Of The Night.” Real wizards don’t parade up and down the street in pointy hats; you don’t know notice their presence until after their incantation has done its work.