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CONOR DOHERTY - The Savage And The Tender

CONOR DOHERTY - The Savage And The Tender
Private Label

Conor Doherty is a Derry man based in London, where he teaches at the BRIT School for Performing Arts. His 56-minute debut album is full of mostly familiar songs from the British and Irish traditions given fresh life by some fabulous guitar arrangements. I was singing along with him to the likes of Sir Patrick Spens, Little Musgrave and Lord Franklin while delighting in his melodic, resonant guitar style. He has worked extensively with South Asian musicians and maybe their influence has rubbed off.

His singing is at its best when the song allows him to express emotion. If Bruton Town and On Banks Of Green Willow are a little cramped, then Anne Briggs’ Go Your Way, Dylan’s Boots Of Spanish Leather and, in particular, the closing Now Westlin Winds are all fine. That Burns -Gaughan classic also provides the album’s title.

The nine songs with acoustic guitar backing are joined by two tunes where he uses electric guitar – King Of The Pipers, learnt from the Altan recording, and Chetvorno Horo, a Bulgarian circle dance tune learnt from Arany Zoltan. The album features some double tracking, and the sound is further filled out by the synthesiser, Hammond organ and mellotron of the producer, Chris McInnes.

As often happens with first albums, some strong influences show through – most notably, Nic Jones. But the inclusion of Monk McLermonts Farewell To Articlave (by an 1840s emigrant from Derry to America) shows that Conor can find less familiar material. The debut of this classy singer-guitarist has been a while in coming, but is very welcome.

Tony Hendry

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This album was reviewed in Issue 111 of The Living Tradition magazine.