The musical cosmos of Blackbird & Crow is almost infinite, ranging from soul, blues, psychedelic rock, from Americana to Irish Folklore. Maighread Ni Ghrasta and Stephen Doohan, two kindred spirits in music, come from County Donegal in the northwest of Ireland. Discovered by Moya Brennan, singer and harpist of the Irish folk rock legend Clannad, they released their debut Shock Shatter Convince in 2017 and have played shows all over the UK, ROI and Germany. While deeply rooted in the musical tradition of their home country, Blackbird & Crow have always explored the trends of contemporary music.
Ailm is the second album of this extraordinary duo and the first on the German-based label M.I.G. Music. An impressive work by two exceptional musicians, showing a partly heavy, almost slightly disturbing, morbid beauty which is touching and sometimes even comforting. The songs are carried by Maighread‘s great nuanced vocal, with distinct Irish flair, and by the virtuosity of Stephen on the stringed instruments. The lyrics to their songs, almost all of which are written by Maighread, explore themes of addiction, suicidal thoughts, abuse, social alienation, anxieties, stories about lost souls on the fringes of society and the gloomy aspects of Celtic mythology. Ailm is a ruthlessly honest self-exploration, both harsh and beautiful, mainly from a first-person perspective, but often also in the third person, as for example in ‘Margaret The Martyr’, which is in its stark intensity reminds of Shel Silverstein‘s ‘Ballad Of Lucy Jordan’. Only that the protagonist here does not end up in a nuthouse, but vegetates in a nursing home, abandoned and lonely. A lot of personal experience finds its way into the lyrics, offering a pitiless view into the past, as well as their native Ireland.
While Blackbird & Crow impress audiences with their stage presence and unrestrained power, this record is dominated by the softer sounds and calls for close attention. With Tommy McLaughlin (Altan, Villagers) they found the right producer who helped them realise their musical ideas for the new album. Senior recording engineer Brian Masterson (Chieftains, Van Morrison, Elvis Costello) then gave Ailm its sonic finetuning.
“Ailm” is the Irish name of the twentieth letter of the Ogham alphabet; in the glossary “Tree Alphabet” “Ailm” represents the conifer. In the tree lore of Celtic mythology, the conifer stands for the healing of one‘s own soul. The “Ailm” symbol allegorizes progress, a spiritual journey. It is, however, also the symbol for healing, protection, purification, guidance, fertility, energy, clarity, health, integrity and objectivity. “We think that this word and symbol represents us and our songs very well“, says Maighread. “A conifer can brave very rough conditions and can grow anywhere. We‘ve been through a lot; many good things have happened to us, but also plenty of bad things. Ailm stands for our journey so far.“
Artists’ website: https://blackbirdandcrow.com/
‘Harlot On Holy Hill’ / ‘The Witch That Could Not Be Burned’ – official video: