KATIE DOHERTY & THE NAVIGATORS – And Then (Steeplejack Music, SJCD023)

And ThenA life-changing decade after her debut album, Bridges, was released, Katie Doherty returns – with Navigators Shona Mooney (fiddle) and Dave Gray (melodeon). New album, And Then, feels like an invitation to sit down for some tea and cake and a bit of a catch-up.

An early graduate of Newcastle University’s Folk Music degree, sometime Broom Bezzums member, Royal Shakespeare Company project musical director and collaborator with many other theatrical companies, Doherty’s career path has taken plenty of serendipitous turns. Add in marriage and a small person underfoot, and it’s all too easy to see how time can slip by.

All but one of the songs on And Then, were written by Doherty, a gifted songwriter with a huge melodic sensibility. Her songs may still have a folk core, but they are wrapped within contemporary musical and singing styles. From the warmly nostalgic, contagiously lovely waltz of ‘Heartbeat Ballroom’ via the strong, jagged ‘Angry Daughter’ – a protest song framed in a female context (and featuring Doherty’s splendid cathartic soul diva holler) – through to the strong musical theatre vibe of ‘And Then’, myriad diverse influences inform this engaging music.

A noticeable self-critical streak is also evident, starting with the volley of bending notes that conveys the defiant, chin-out hurt of ‘I’ll Go Out’. A pragmatic view of love is established in ‘Yours’ and only ‘Navigator’ (the source of the band’s name) lightens up a bit to celebrate love and friendship. Still, a lingering core of self-doubt persists in many of the lyrics, like in ‘Tiny Little Shoes’, a delightful, very Bella Hardy-esque song about the fear – and love – of parenting.

For a totally contrasting mood, Doherty’s sansula playing adds ethereality to the already sparse and chilly ‘Rose In Winter’, warmed only by a faint echo of birdsong. Equally gripping are the muscular fiddle and mournful melodeon breaths of ‘Polska’, a traditional tune to which the addition of Doherty’s arabesque melismatic vocalisations could be considered a spot of lily-gilding.

As the belated catch-up draws to a close, a chorus of voices joins with the plucked fiddle and barely-there piano opening to ‘We Burn’, swelling into a triumphant, uplifting finale. On the strength of this smartly constructed set of songs, it’s to be hoped that Ms Doherty and her Navigators don’t leave it quite so long next time.

Su O’Brien

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Artist website: www.katiedoherty.co.uk

‘Heartbeat Ballroom’ – official video:

Katie Doherty announces new album

Katie Doherty
Katie Doherty And The Navigators

It is said that a change is as good as a rest, and for Katie Doherty it is both a rest, and a change, that provide the backdrop to her latest album And Then. Back in 2007, Doherty became an award-winning songwriter, and released her debut solo album Bridges to much acclaim – including airplay from BBC Radio 2 – leading her to share stages with the likes of Karine Polwart, Kate & Anna McGarrigle, and Ray Davies. Life however – as it has a habit of doing – got in the way, putting the brakes for the moment on a soaring trajectory. New roles as composer for many Northern Stage productions, as well as MD for a Royal Shakespeare Company production, may have slowed her output but they have also broadened her knowledge and love for music.

It perhaps should not be a huge surprise then that much of Doherty’s new album is rooted in her keen observation of the concept of change. Whether the focus be on the changing seasons, life circumstances, the passage of time, or the shifting of social attitudes and behaviour, on And Then we see Doherty shine a light on how it feels to be part of a world that can be hard to keep up with.

‘Yours’ immediately lands as a story of leaving a beloved city behind. ‘Rose In Winter’ conjures imagery of the creeping in of winter, and ‘Tiny Little Shoes’ explores the rollercoaster of first-time parenthood, and the accompanying feelings of overwhelming responsibility. Elsewhere on the record are songs that offer a deep examination of wider-world issues, notably the title track, which spotlights societal pressures in the age of social media, as Doherty explains:

“The pressure to live up to expectation and to portray ‘perfect’ is ridiculous and in the age of social media, it’s constant, relentless and damaging. I think so much time can get lost in this pursuit and it kills creativity and imagination. I suppose it’s the ultimate procrastination…you don’t get much done when you’re so busy trying to live up to the world’s expectations. I’m not sure at what point in childhood we lose our wild abandon in favour of fitting in but it’d be great if we all had the ability to revert back once in a while.”

In turn, ‘Angry Daughter’ is song about resilience in the face of inequality. Doherty continues:

“During many debates on gender inequality I have heard women sounding almost apologetic about what could be viewed as ‘feminine’ qualities – because we don’t shout the loudest, speak up soon enough…push forward their ideas etc. I wrote this song as an anti-apology, a celebration of the measured, considered and dignified approach to standing your ground, which often gets ignored.”

And Then marks the start of a sparkling new chapter for Katie Doherty.

Artist’s website: https://www.katiedoherty.co.uk/

‘Tiny Little Shoes’ – live: