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Patrick J Crowley, 'All Was Set Fair'

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Patrick J Crowley, All Was Set Fair - COURTESY
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  • Patrick J Crowley, All Was Set Fair

(Self-released, digital)

It may have been written and recorded during the COVID-19 pandemic, but don't call Patrick J Crowley's new release a quarantine album. By his estimation, few of us truly lived through quarantine but, rather, a period of isolation. And that, Crowley says, is what All Was Set Fair is — an isolation album.

Self-recorded between two homes, All Was Set Fair is a true folk album whose strength lies in its raw delivery. The album opens with the title track and immediately pulls you in with its James Taylor-esque vocals, muted guitar strumming and vibraphone overlays. The combination blends warmth with a bright finish. Once the pedal steel slides in, the song's texture is complete and wraps around you like a worn-in flannel blanket.

Though a few of the songs on the album start to blend together, there are several standouts.

In the album's description, Crowley mentions that, along with the slow and sad, he tried to highlight moments of brightness from this past year. The third track, "The Worst Waiting," is a great example of this dichotomy. The opening lyric, "Maybe we all will be redeemed living through all this common grief," offers a semblance of hope. In the chorus, however, Crowley alludes to his life as a first responder, crooning, "But I'm sorry to be dark, it's been a busy week at work and I need to get it out before I lose the words."

In "The Mission to Restore," we get a different sound: a hypnotic guitar riff that carries through the entire track, a heavy dose of reverb, additional guitar lines and harmonies that accumulate as the track progresses. The result is an eerie, captivating tune that distinguishes itself from the pack.

"Stage Right," composed to emulate a modal medieval piece, shines in its breakaway from the standard folk sound. The guitar could easily be substituted for a lute. Crowley singing in unison with the guitar is simple and beautiful, and, just when you may start to think it's too simple, he brings in harmonies to dress up the track.

The closing number, "Love Spoken Plainly," provides a perfect ending to a folk album. No frills, just a modest chord progression and standard harmonies. Crowley acknowledges the traditional format in the chorus, "Love spoken plainly, a folk song with two or three chords."

Overall, Crowley has created a beautiful ode to his year of living through the COVID-19 pandemic, capturing the feeling of melancholy with a few sunny spots sprinkled in.

All Was Set Fair is available at patrickjcrowley.bandcamp.com.