Long Distance Swimmer Tin Angel ★★★★ It’s the quiet ones you have to watch out for. Galway’s Adrian Crowley has always flown lower beneath the radar than his singing-songwriting peers. Some have followed the trail that began with Crowley’s 1999 debut album (A Strange Kind), but it’s fair to say that his rise has been largely untroubled by expectations, and most observers have preferred to keep step with lesser talents. Compliments have come his way from the likes of Ryan Adams, Steve Albini, James Yorkston and the Fence collective, but Crowley has just quietly got on with his craft.
Album No 4 may be the point at which Crowley stops being a best kept secret. Like A Northern Country, his previous release, Long Distance Swimmer was recorded during a spell housesitting for his sister. He pushed the furniture back to the walls, ensured the house’s one other resident (a dalmation called Rosy) was happy, and invited a bunch of musical accomplices to come round to help.
The shivers begin to run up and down from the moment Crowley starts singing Bless Our Tiny Hearts, and you get the sense that you’re in the presence of one of the year’s most beguiling collections of songs. His command of his craft is masterful, assured and alive to every possibility from the first strum. His voice – doleful, sometimes hurt and always knowing – perfectly mirrors the swing and momentum of songs such as Temporary Residence and Harmony Row, each one lyrically sculpted and shaped to perfection.
There are no throwaway lines in Crowley’s canon. He strikes you as a writer who knows that the power of words is not something to be used lightly. Listen, for instance, how he builds, contains and controls the droll drama on Walk on Part, as the band swell to flatter rather than fill the space between the words. Long Distance Swimmer elevates Crowley to a completely different class. www.myspace. com/adrian crowley
JIM CARROLL Download tracks: Bless Our Tiny Hearts, Harmony Row, Walk on Part
Adrian Crowley: no longer Galway’s best-kept secret