The result of exploring the concept of creative flow through work on formative versions of the songs with four community groups in the North East, the trio’s new album is a response to the current state of the world with its portraits of a wide spectrum of people and potentials. With producer Mattie Foulds on drums, keys and bass joining Katie, melodeonist Dave Gray and fiddler Shona Mooney, it opens on drone with ‘Never Before’, a piano-accompanied, vocally soaring number about the changes wrought by the pandemic and the future going forward that has the feel of a stage musical centrepiece, leading into the repeated jittery piano phrase of ‘Four Strings’, constructed as a conversation between the wind and the violin, a celebration of the power of music to reach out and touch, to “make concrete feel human”
In musical contrast, ‘Hey Little Girl’ is a drum-led, nervy, itchy rhythm with a blues and tribal undercurrent, addressed to “all the grown men scared of the pigtails” and conceived as the patronising response of patriarchal authority (“hey little girl, go back to school for a while”) when woman have the temerity to question them and propose new ways of thinking, when “difficult girls become difficult women”.
The title track is a pulsing number with a simple lyric about breathing in and out and counting 1,2,3,4, a quivering underpinning drone, tinkling folksy piano notes and Mooney’s waltzing pastoral fiddle solo etching Doherty’s pure soaring vocals. Another piano-based tracks with a theatrical feel into which a steady marching drum beat and fiddle feed, ‘She Is’ is an anthemic hymn to Northumberland (“she is new flowers and fox tracks/She is winds warning/She’s a welcome to the wanderer/And those who heed her calling!“), building into recent urgent driving single ‘Hurricane’, another song about change and the need for activism (“I am predisposed to quiet/But I’m not afraid of noise/And the louder winds are blowing/Well the more you need a voice/I will not leave it to the children/To tidy up the mess that we made”).
Featuring brass by Mikey Owers and unfolding like Celtic mist rolling in from the hills arranged by Grieg or Vaughn Williams, ‘A Life Long Stupid Dream’ is a seven minute drone and pulsing fiddle asking “When will we get to where we came from/How will we ever know if we went far enough?“), Doherty’s accent and a bluesy timbre colouring her delivery.
Pizzicato fiddle anchors the gently swaying ‘Red Dress’, again returning to finding inspiration to change and move forward (“the world needs a brand new song/And there may be pain/In the morning rain/But everyone deserves a change”) and not remain “tangled up in fear”.
Introduced by a pastoral fiddle figure, ‘To The Night’ continues in a similar vein with a call to “leave the weary days behind you” and “Raise your heart to the night/Raise your voice to the light” because “I promise you the dawn is coming”.
The soundscape designed by Matthew Tuckey, plucked fiddle rippling across the swell as well as striking a Morris note, it ends on another musical theatre note with ‘Summer Song’, a closing celebration of the power of music to stir and create a community as it ends with her urging “go and gather the musicians…we will come and play” as the notes ebb away. This is the positive lateral flow we need right now. Their tide is high.
Artist’s website: www.katiedoherty.co.uk
‘Summer Song’ – official video: