Katie Doherty and the Navigators -‘And Then’ (Steeplejack Music)
‘Second album syndrome’ is an idea that’s been around so long it’s tempting to wonder how music makers were pressured pre-recorded sound. Katie Doherty released her debut, Bridges, back in 2007, but it’s only now that the follow-up, And Then, has been released.
Not that she’s been idle in the meantime, as she’s been a composer for many Northern Stage productions, as well as collaborating with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and starting a family. This second album is not a concept album per se (or if it is, it’s very well hidden!), but there is a theme running through the record, Doherty’s evaluation of the concept of change.
This is a record that probably will be described as folk, for convenience if nothing else, but that shouldn’t mean that it isn’t hugely contemporary in terms of the lyrical concerns within. On the title track she looks at the issue of looking perfect in the age of social media:
‘And they filter out the lines that show you’re living
They paper over cracks where light gets in
And that fire in your belly is a safety hazard
And they’ll smother it before it could begin
Please, please don’t let them win‘ she implores the listener.
Elsewhere she looks at just how overwhelming being a parent is on ‘Tiny Little Shoes’ and takes a tough stance on standing up for yourself as a woman on ‘Angry Daughter.’ If you ever thought that folk music was little more ‘than hey nonny no’ needs to listen to her powerfully proclaiming that ‘this is owed to resilience, stand up for what is wrong.’
It’s not just about the power of Doherty as a lyricist but it’s also about how compelling the album is, over repeated listens, musically. Shona Mooney (fiddle and vocals) and Dave Gray (melodeon and vocals) make this very much a group record, along with double bassist Ian Stephenson, producing something very powerful to listen to. The atmosphere conjured up to listen to on ‘A Rose In Winter’ particularly is a spinechilling listen, and the centuries-old traditions meeting the twenty-first century head on in the instrumental ‘Polska.’
The standout track, though, is ‘Heartbeat Ballroom.’ Reflecting on lovers who met at teenage dances, it’s actually pretty moving, even more so when combined with Ian Fenton’s video. even on its own, it is an extraordinarily visual song in the images it conjures up. If it doesn’t bring a lump to your throat, then something’s wrong.
There’s no need to spend hours debating what folk music is or attempting to justify this album’s place. Take it at face value, and live with it until you love it. Then keep playing…
And Then is out now on Steeplejack Music