I Could Read The Sky

Iarla Ó Lionáird

Released 04 June 2000

  1. Dream / Taidhreamh
  2. I'm Stretched On Your Grave / Taim Sinte Ar Do Thuama
  3. Mother
  4. In England
  5. The King
  6. Iron And Gold
  7. The Old Road To Garry
  8. Consecrate
  9. Knuckles To The Marrow
  10. Prayer / Urnai
  11. Grace / Grasta De
  12. Roisin Dubh
  13. The Mountains Of Pomeroy
  14. Singing Bird (Live)

Liner notes

Music written for and inspired by the film I Could Read The Sky by Nichola Bruce, produced by Janine Marmot and based on the book of the same name by Timothy O’Grady and Steve Pyke.

An old man, at the end of his life, remembers. Alone in his bedsit in London his mind wanders, haunted by the past, its images of loss and isolation —growing up on the West Coast of Ireland, the women he has loved, his journey to London and his harsh life as the migrant labourer. The music written for this story traces this labyrinth of memories— from the nostalgia and beauty of the traditional rural way of life to the brutality and energy of modern urban existence.


I’m Stretched On Your Grave

I’m stretched on your grave
This is where you will find me
If I could touch your fingertips
I would never let you go

My little apple tree, my darling
It is time for me to lie with you
I smell of the cold earth
Have become
The colour of the wind
The colour of the sun

When your people
Believe me to be in my bed sleeping
I will be a spirit being
In the meadows before you


“When I hit the first notes my hands take off like a pair of birds. I can feel the tune spilling itself out inside me. I can see all the notes like they’re small coloured stones you’d find on the strand. I can look at all sides of them and find the right place for them to go…”

“We are the immortals…We have one name and we have one body. We are always in our prime and we are always fit for work. We dig the tunnels, lay the rails and build the roads and buildings. But we leave no other sign behind us. We are unknown and unrecorded. We have many names and none are our own. Whenever the stiffness and pain come in and the work gets harder…we change again into our younger selves. On and on we go. We are like the bottle that never empties. We are immortal.”

Excerpts from ‘I Could Read The Sky’


  • Mandolin and fiddle duets or concertina solos vie earthquaking, industrial racket, grindy guitar growl and distorted spoken-voice sequences…. Q Magazine (UK)
  • Layer upon layer to be peeled away with every listening. One thing’s for sure and certain: I Could Read The Sky is an album to inhabit, not merely to listen to. Hot Press (Ireland)



Produced by Iarla Ó Lionáird

Additional production and special treatments by Ron Aslan. Ambient fragments by Iarla Ó Lionáird and Ron Aslan. Mixed by David Bottrill (2, 4, 5, 6, 11, 12), Jacquie Turner (3, 7, 8, 9, 13, 14) and Ron Aslan (1, 10). Recorded at Real World Studios, Box, UK except: ‘Roísín Dubh’ recorded at Sin Phonic Studios, London, UK; ‘The Old Road To Garry’ and ‘Mother’ recorded in Seattle, USA; ‘Singing Bird’ recorded live at Shepherds Bush Empire, London, UK with thanks to Frank Murray and Neil O’Brien. Assistant engineers Marco Migliari and Sam Miller at Real World Studios. Additional equipment supplied by Dreamhire of London


A Real World Design. Art direction by Michael Coulson. Graphic design by Athena Connal. Photography by Steve Pyke.

Translation of ‘I’m Stretched On Your Grave’ by Iarla Ó Lionáird. Quotations from the book ‘I Could Read The Sky’ published by The Harvill Press.

Special thanks to Ron Aslan; Dennis Cahill; Caroline Dale; Rí-Rá; Martin Hayes; Dermot Healy; Noel Hill; Felix Howard; Tommy McManamon; James McNally; Sinéad O’Connor; Edel Griffiths, Geoff Pryce and Ronan O’Neill at Real World Studios; Jacquie Turner; Owen Leech; Amanda Jones; Rob Bozas; David Bottrill; David Caren; Jimmy Keane; Timothy O’Grady; Steve Pyke; Janine Marmot; Nichola Bruce; Helen Bomerito; Sarah Miller at Pure Management; Amy Garvey; Frank Murray; Martin Anscombe and Keith Knowles at Dreamhire London; Rod Stoneman; Roger Shannon; Simon Emmerson; James McNally; Nicholas O’Neill; Ellen O’Hea at Davelle Communications; Paul Scully.

Further Listening

  • The Seven Steps to Mercy

    Iarla Ó Lionáird

    Released 21 September 1997

    Following the success of Afro Celt Sound System’s first album, the band’s vocalist entered the studio with Canadian producer Michael Brook to create his debut solo album: a haunting set of songs drawn from the sean-nós singing tradition of Ireland as well as Ó Lionáird’s original musical ideas.
  • The Gloaming 2

    The Gloaming

    Released 26 February 2016

    The Gloaming dwells at the musical crossroads, enhancing traditional Irish music’s rich, melancholic tones with modern hues of jazz, contemporary classical and experimental music as they redefine what Irish music can be. This, their second album, was recorded at Real World studios during an inspired week in December 2015.

Further reading

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