Katie Doherty and The Navigators - And Then - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Katie Doherty and The Navigators - And Then

by Bill Golembeski Rating:9 Release Date:2019-01-25
Katie Doherty and The Navigators - And Then
Katie Doherty and The Navigators - And Then

This is a folk album that colors a bit outside the usual modern singer-songwriter lines. It’s English Teesside stuff, with lots of sheep grazing in the music.

And the heavenly crystal-clear brook voice of Katie Doherty is juxtaposed to very earthy Navigators, Shona Mooney (fiddle) and Dave Gray (melodeon), to create music that is the painter’s brush of the deeply dark North Sea and the very melodic British shore.

“I’ll Go Out Tonight” is a pure folk delight. Katie’s vocals sing ancient ritualistic gymnastics while the violin and melodeon anchor heaven to Earth. This is lovely music because it exhales tradition into our modern world. For the folk aficionado, this music has all the earthen fingerprints of a good Fellside recording.

This isn’t mystical new age Enya anything.   

“Yours” is sort of an ancient love song. It searches the stars in the sky. And it simply confesses, “I am yours today.” Love and stars will always endure. This music is never ashamed to grasp the heavens. But those fellow Navigators pulse at the nerves of the always earthen here and now. That’s the beauty of this music: It’s a frosty window that slowly melts to a fire’s warmth.

You know, Debussy said that he found his music “in the space between the notes.” Well, Katie Doherty sings those hidden sounds.

“Navigator” begins with a plucked violin while the vocals soar above a melodeon pulse. My friend, Kilda Defnut, says this music resembles the purity of the band Barrule, from The Isle of Man. I also hear the acoustic drive of Finland’s finest, Varttina, or Sweden’s Hoven Droven in their quiet moments.

Now, in all fairness, “Heartbeat Ballroom” is a piano-led song that is melodic to a Broadway musical fault. The same is true for “And This” and “Tiny Little Shoes.” There’s nothing at all wrong with incredibly tuneful songs. Katie Doherty has a theatrical resume, and this music is very dramatic in a very melodic manner. But it’s (thankfully) a far cry from Disney’s Snow White crooning to her seven dwarves and sundry animal friends in some enchanted and very frozen forest. These songs are just powerful and melodic and exist slightly outside the Blues Run the Game or Lord Franklin coffee house folk norm.

Comparisons can be made to Maddy Prior (of Steeleye Span fame) and her solo albums like Year and Arthur the King. This album never rocks; and it isn’t modern folk like (my favs) James Elkington, Karine Polwart, Julie Fowlis, or James Yorkston, but it is just as great in its own way.

The album then returns to simple traditional beauty. “Rose in Winter” is deeply sublime stuff that sings those notes Debussy found between all the spaces of life. And “Polska” is instrumental purity with wordless vocals that captures the wind of North Umbria. “Angry Daughter,” perhaps the most upbeat song, adds to the wild northern landscape of the album. And this tune really echoes the greatness and brash pulse of Thea Gilmore (she of the brilliant Rules for Jokers album). It’s a nice change of pace.

The final song, “We Burn,” is the harvest home of the album. The vocals sing a tapestry of notes while the violin and melodeon throb with the continuous motion of an ancient English waterwheel. And then the album ends with a few plucked notes. I can only speculate, but, just perhaps, Thomas Hardy might like this record.

And by the way, after countless spins, this record endures revolutions and time, because it touches an ancient root that still persists in further traditional footsteps today.

So, this is a very old album, and it’s a very new album. It’s a tradition that is loveable; it’s a tradition that is hummable; it’s a tradition that is warm like an English ale, and it’s deeply grooved and wide open like the North Sea. It’s the music of sheep eating grass. It’s melodic theater music. And, ultimately, it’s just a really great bit of modern and very beautiful British folk music that never forgets The Celts, The Anglo-Saxons, those Normans, Fairport Convention, and an ancient violin I once saw in a Cheltenham museum that played its strings in old rituals, in old entertainment, and in the old magic of big fires and dark woods. And vital folk music will always be those big fires, fires that blaze with the past, fires that sing with hot embers, fires that, even after all these years, find a way to burn with passion and pathos, which is the heart of our very musical past.

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