Joe Crookston’s new album, Darkling & the Bluebird Jubilee, is easily the most inspiring collection of songs I’ve heard this year. A diverse and extremely powerful selection inspired by Taoist parables, animal fables, the death of poet Dylan Thomas, the passing of time and mental illness. Each song is a revelvant and universal story about life and its struggles — an acoustic map of morals, if you will, guiding us through good and bad, joy and grief, light and dark. Heavily rooted in American music, Crookston uses his guitar and clawhammer banjo to create something stunning and righteous.
The title track exemplifies Crookston’s obsession with balance. A dialog between the hopeful bluebird and the cynicial darkling who tries to bring the bluebird down, but the bluebird rejects and stands up to the darkling’s hatred. As with every fable there is a moral and that moral is: Hatred and hopelessness are everywhere, just don’t give in to them because love and hope are always around.
Balance can be found throughout Darkling & the Bluebird Jubilee. The extremely moving and grief-stricken “Caitlin at the Window” tells of Dylan Thomas’ wife, Caitilin, after his death and is reminscent of The Decemberists while “The Nazarene” is an eloquent expression of mental illness. Whereas, the Taoist inspired parable “Good Luck John ” is an upbeat tale about uncertainity and “Everything is Good” is an exceptionally encouraging and inspiring call to change our lives. An earnest and gorgeous version of Mary Gauthier’s “Mercy Now” is the only cover on the record. It is a relevant anthem with a poignant message we should all take to heart.
Joe Crookston is an honest and authentic folk singer and songwriter. His songs have a way of cutting through the outside noise and right to the core of a person’s soul and conscious. And, after listening to Darkling & the Bluebird Jubilee, you’ll find yourself pondering and re-examining your state mind, perceptions and way of life. It truly is a striking and timeless album that doubles as a musical moral compass.
“Darkling & the Bluebird Jubilee”
“Caitlin at the Window”