Blabber 'N' Smoke
June 2013
Paul Kerr

Kevin Doherty. Seeing Things

A member of exuberant Irish folk group Four Men & A Dog, Kevin Doherty has had a fertile solo career running in tandem with his band work. He’s recorded with Levon Helm and Rick Danko and been described as a “Donegal Leonard Cohen.” Seeing Things is his fourth solo affair and immediately one can hear the reason for the Cohen comparison on the opening song, To Begin and on the excellent I’m Going Now which begs comparison with Cohen circa New Skin For The Old Ceremony. However it’s unfair to labour this point as throughout the album Doherty shows kinship with such excellent tunesmiths as Harry Nilsson, Paul McCartney, Randy Newman and, going back a century and a half, Stephen Foster. Although there’s a slight brogue in his voice there’s little to suggest that this is the work of an Irishman (musically I mean, lyrically it’s loaded with the Emerald Isle) and there’s nary a sight nor sound of a fiddle, banjo or bodhran. In their place we get a suite of intimate songs which drizzle out of the speakers like snowflakes, gently fluttering and caressing as they fall. With some excellent string arrangements by Michael Heaney the album is bare boned with guitar, piano and occasional accordion the primary instruments while Doherty’s fine vocals are supported on two of the songs by Charley Webb (of the Webb Sisters) and Lise O’Neill. As for the words Doherty is a great writer with a poet’s touch and almost every song has an arresting or striking lyric contained within it while there are nods and allusions to Dylan Thomas, John Donne, James Joyce, Paul Bowles and in the title song Seamus Heaney. Doherty’s online notes on the songs are especially worth reading.

With the exception of I Wish I Was On A Train which sounds somewhat underdeveloped all of the songs here are almost perfect examples of the songwriter’s craft. The miniature morning song of To Begin, the tender Latin American tinged Esplendido Corazon, the Cohanesque (sorry) Rambling Irishman would deserve attention anywhere. Doherty however excels himself on two songs that elevate the album into a contender for the annual best of lists at the end of the year. The title song Seeing Things opens with the arresting line “We’re slamming through clouds in a loud piece of shining steel” as Doherty slides into a wine fuelled reverie on a flight. The baleful horn and gentle backing support the song like billowing clouds. New York City (Going Back) has a subtle laid back organ groove with some muted horn and is an impressionistic report on meetings and encounters in the Big Apple with Philip Roth and John Henry offered walk on parts. So far we’ve avoided mentioning Van Morrison but Doherty’s vocal manner and lyrics here recall Morrison’s as Doherty slips oh so easily into the big feller’s stream. A magnificent song.

Folk Radio UK
June 2013
Simon Holland

Kevin Doherty - Seeing Things

The County Donegal born and Dublin residing Kevin Doherty’s career has been following dual courses over the last dozen years or so. Having established himself on the Irish music scene via the Pyros and Gooseberries he became a member of the internationally renowned Four Men And A Dog in the early 90s. But with a hiatus in band activity a decade later, Kevin recorded his first two solo albums in fairly quick succession. Whilst compared with Four Men they haven’t made any great impression this side of the Irish Sea so far, perhaps that is set to change as Kevin has now signed with Proper Records.

If his profile doesn’t improve significantly it will be somewhat of a travesty. Seeing Things is a very good album indeed. If Kevin perhaps displays touches of Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Randy Newman and even Van Morrison, without directly sounding like any of those, it’s a sign of the quality of this CD that such comparisons can spring to mind. The starkly simple settings, generally involve a guitar or piano with a string section creating a nice point of distinction. His somewhat lugubrious voice wrapped around some literate, poetic word play littered with reference points, also suggests a sharp and well exercised mind at work.

Kevin doesn’t try to dazzle with oblique stanzas or arch couplets, his style is far too laconic for that, but amongst these outwardly simple stories lie some big questions and little clues. You might want to describe him as a romantic, in the sense of the artistic movement that is. His songs have a way of crossing boundaries, slipping between realms and even bending the fabric of time to their will. But they do so with such natural ease that there’s no turbulence to blow you off course while you listen, just a sense of quiet magic taking place. It’s a safe bet, none the less, that it’s the only record you’ll listen to this year, that uses the word Hippocrene, or that makes reference to the Varian Disaster.

In truth that latter reference from Poor Boys is picked up from his website that offers additional insight track by track. While such things clearly mark him as both literate and a thinker, it’s not at the expense of a good song, which in this case is about death in war and the reaction to that has remained constant from the year 9AD to now. It’s only the phrase, “Blood on the breastplates,” that suggests something arcane, but the emotional response is the same. The song works on all sorts of levels and the one you choose is up to you.

Seeing Things is neatly book ended by an aubade and a serenade, the opening and closing of the day. To Begin is a simple enough title, but again that website sows the seed that it’s an inauspicious fragment of the opening of Under Milkwood. A short song, it signals what is to come, with the lingering tremolo of Kevin’s voice against some simple plucked guitar, but with a rising swirl of string bringing us home, whilst the lyrics suggest hope and fear, but no guidance, just possibilities. Red Sun repeats the trick at the days end, with a might more comfort in companionship basking in the sunset. As if to emphasise the point Lisa O’Neill adds her voice to Kevin’s, but the extended instrumental finale sees a piano and those strings once more in ascension.

Esplendido Corazón also benefits from a vocal partner, this time it’s Charley Webb (of the Webb Sisters) in achingly beautiful form as she delivers the second and key verse, “And many’s the man of modest means is smiling to himself at the illusionary nature of material and wealth.” It’s not the only dart aimed in that direction as the valedictory, I’m Going Now, which offers, “I’m going now from bonds and from bosses, they privatised the boom, now they’ve socialised the losses.” It’s not all cock-a-snook, however, as Kevin admits, “But I have felt beloved all along.”

At the centre of the album are two tracks that encapsulate the anxiety of travel. The title track finds Kevin, “Slamming through clouds in a loud piece of shining steel.” He confesses it’s something that he dislikes so tends to drop into nervous songwriting mode. The result, possibly fuelled by a liberal sampling of the in flight shiraz, seems to have produced a fervid, hallucinatory encounter with Jesus, who seems to have one over Kevin with his feet on the ground and a course set to meet Kevin’s lover. I Wish I Was On A Train is a more straightforward desire to be in the arms of the one you love and the pain of separation.

Rambling Irishman shares the mid-air creation of Seeing Things and it’s perhaps the anxieties of the flight that have brought Kevin back to the Irish troubles. His profound wish for piece again seems to have taken a turn for the visionary as he sings, “I heard the armies clash at night I willed the all to settle, I saw the great elk taking flight through the lake mist and the nettles.”

It’s perhaps New York City (Going Back) and I Saw The Rose that emerge as the clinchers. The former has a loping ease and a great brass arrangement, with a subtle shading of overdriven electric piano and organ. There’s just the merest hint of Herbie Flowers telling contribution to Walk On The Wildside. I Saw The Rose meanwhile shares the waltz tempo of the title track and builds from something small and almost whispered, growing in confidence to end as a soaring string laden ballad of poignant beauty. It’s the sort of track that cults are built on.

Like a good friend that you get to know over years, Doherty has tales to tell that will keep you enthralled if you chose to follow his leads, his yarns, his philosophising and his passions. This is music for head and heart, but start with the ears, because if you lend him those for 40 minutes, the rest will surely follow.

June 2013
(Start 5.08 in for half hour)

Ralph McLean presents a selection of great local music, sessions and chat from new Northern Irish artists and established acts. Listen in at 5.08 to hear a half hour session with Kevin.

Acoustic Magazine
June 2013
Steve Bennett

Kevin Doherty - Seeing Things

Imagine a Donegal Leonard Cohen reinventing the 'Closing Time'-era Tom Waits and you're right there on Doherty's dog-eared, poet's page. The warm, lightly-scuffed baritone, over pared-down guitar, piano and occasional plaintive accordion or brass washes, brings timeless quality to ten, highly-literate originals from the Seamus Heaney-inspired title track to the hushed, heartbroken 'I Wish I Was On A Train' (echoing Paul Buchanan at his most wearily romantic) and the beautiful elegiac 'I'm Going Now' (pure Cohen and surely a contender for the best "goodnight and thankyou" song ever written). Indeed, the great man's backing singing Webb Sisters bring subtly sinous support to the lilting 'Esplendido Corazon'. As befits a man who's worked with The Band, this fourth solo outing is a lovingly-crafted, gentle-paced gem.

Folk Words
May 2013
Tim Carroll

'Seeing Things' - new album from Kevin Doherty - a future classic

I have just listened to one panacea for life's vagaries. There you are struggling with the pressures … and what's the remedy? Simple. Immerse yourself in 'Seeing Things' the new album from Kevin Doherty, and everything will be fine - no doubt about it. Perhaps as widely known as part of Four Men & A Dog as for his solo work, this collection of ten new songs will evolve into something of a classic, further enhancing an Kevin Doherty without pencil scanalready convincing songwriting reputation.

From the start, gorgeously engaging melodies sweep around you as the soft depths of these powerful lyrics and the sheer warmth of Kevin's emotive vocals pulls you into each song. You're living with every word and without any effort on your part, Kevin holds you there. The expressive duet with Charley Webb (Webb Sisters) 'Esplendido Corazón' is quite simply enthralling, as is the insightful poignancy of 'Poor Boys' and for those of us that regard flying as less than beguiling there's the perspicacity of 'Seeing Things'.

Taken as a whole these songs echo personal views, keen reflections and convincing exploration that share a common theme. Themes perhaps not always easygoing but so worth sharing. The precise scrutiny and seductive melody of 'I'm Going Now' make this a song that will remain with you a long time, while the gentle longing of 'I Wish I Was On A Train' is something to hear. Me, I also loved the semi-unfathomable implication and nomadic drifting of 'Rambling Irishman'.

'Seeing Things' is a stunning album - songs for the soul, medicinal music to engage with the best part of us all. And more frankly than that - it is plain bloody beautiful.

'Seeing Things' releases on 17 June 2013 on Proper Records (PRPCD109) digitally and on CD - and as an added bonus with the CD you get a strikingly designed wallet complete with lyric sheet.

Flyinshoes Review
May 2013
John (Biscuits and Gravy) Davy

Kevin Doherty: Seeing Things

Dublin-based Northern Irishman Kevin Doherty has two music careers: one as a member of big deal folk group Four Men & A Dog, and a solo career that explores the musical possibilities of the singer-songwriter. This new album has a beautiful low-key melancholy that sounds pretty close to being a Richard Hawley production; vocals, piano and string accompaniment all have a measured richness which, if it catches you in the right mood, will feel like the perfect warm bath of sound to have a good soak in.

His publicity gives credit to the great Irish poet Seamus Heaney as a source of inspiration for this work and you can see that Doherty's trying for something bigger than just another folk album; the presentation, the production and, above all, the lyric writing all reach for the heights of poetic beauty. Whether he makes it or not will all be in the ears of the beholder of course and I guess I have my reservations; for one thing there's a one-note melancholy throughout the album that doesn't always fit the lyrics. The song I Saw The Rose, for example, is a witty depiction of having your eye caught by a girl doing mock flamenco dancing with a spoon in her teeth rather than the required rose. There's lust and joy and laughter and exuberance in the lyric, but you wouldn't know that from the music and this seems an odd decision to me. Many of the songs do indeed deal with regret and sad contemplation, for which the music fits well, but maybe it would do no harm to have a little joyful lift along the way - light and shade, as it is said.

There's a song here, Rambling Irishman, which has what seems to me to be a pretty inspired lyric, fourteen lines which encapsulate the complex cultural baggage of being Irish, opening and closing with this couplet: "I am a rambling Irishman, from chaos I was born/ When the glass falls from my hand to chaos I'll return". The lines inbetween make the wild imaginative leaps that mark the work of an expansive poet, whilst on another occasion he can make a song that narrows the focus right down to the obsessive longing to be with the person you love. It's interesting stuff, music to engage the mind as well as the heart, and the thing that keeps drawing me back to this album are the moments of great musical beauty, the careful layering of piano and strings that works so well. I just feel a little joie-de-vivre wouldn't have been out of place along the way.

May 2013
Alan Harrison

Panoramic post-modern Folk songs from seasoned Irish songwriter

Kevin Doherty first found fame and (hopefully) fortune with the Irish, Folk Supergroup Four Men & A Dog, who recorded six albums including one with Levon Helm and Rick Danko.

This is Doherty's fourth solo album and the growing maturity of writing and singing will easily win him admirers outside the narrow Folk world he comes from.

The album opens with a very short song called To Begin With, and my sensitive ears picked up hints of John Martyn and Boo Hewerdine alongside a heady aroma of Leonard Cohen in his voice, and that stayed with me throughout the next 9 heartrending songs.

You first realise that Doherty has silently moved away from his traditional Folk roots with the delightful Americana drenched Esplendido Corazon, which features a couple of beautiful lines in Spanish and a verse from the crystal clear voice of Charley Webb as a string section sweeps in and out like a summer breeze.

The Arco String Quartet makes a soft sweet return on the title track, Seeing Things which could easily be the 'great lost Leonard Cohen song' from the late 70's; but it's not - it's Kevin Doherty doing what he does best; writing a beautiful, timeless story that Michael Keeney produces and arranges with a smattering of magic-dust.

There is a whole generation of singer-songwriters coming from the Northern third of Ireland at the moment; all of whom are 'children of the Troubles' and the lack of bitterness in their writing never ceases to amaze me; but it's probably their background that brings out the poet in these sons and daughters of Ireland and that is no better served than on Rambling Irishman, which couldn't have been written; and possibly even sung by anyone other than a native of that beautiful but fractured land.

★ ★ ★ ★

Colm O'Hare

Superior Singer Songwriter releases Fourth Solo Album

Donegal native and Dublin resident, Kevin Doherty has enjoyed a dual career over the last two decades - both as a solo artist and member of the folk supergroup, Four Men & A Dog. While his work with the latter has tended towards a more exuberant and eclectic blend of trad, folk and Americana, his own work is more typical singer-songwriter fare.

The songs on his fourth solo outing are, for the most part, mellow and melancholic while the arrangements are sparse: mainly guitar, piano and strings, with some additional backing vocals courtesy of Lisa O'Neill and Charley Webb of the Webb Sisters. Lyrically and melodically he mines a similar seam to the likes of Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Randy Newman and Van Morrison, with no shortage of poetic soul-seaching, introspection and a little social commentary. On 'I'm Going Now', a weary promise of impending emigration, he laments how the bosses, "privatised the boom, and now they've socialised the losses". The title track - an epic song, inspired by Seamus Heaney - finds him on a flight to a destination unknown where he is, "slamming through clouds in a loud piece of shining steel" over a soaring slow waltz.

In the past, Doherty has worked and recored with members of The Band, including Rick Danko, Garth Hudson and Levon Helm, in the latter's Woodstock studio. This experience has clearly influenced his approach, especially on a song like the sublime 'New York City' - a paean to the Big Apple. Elsewhere, 'I Wish I Was On A Train' recalls Elvis' 'American Trilogy' ("I wish I was in Dixie" etc.), while, despite the title, 'Rambling Irishman' isn't a jolly ballad but a whispered reflection on troubles past.


Joe Breen

Each time Seeing Things ends, I feel I have heard more, and yet it seems much more remains to be revealed. The music sounds both familiar and distant. The opening track, To Begin, sets the tone: “We start from a place of unknowing/Quietly work our way up/Without maps or charts for the going/Just strength in the heart and the gut . . .” Donegal singer-songwriter Doherty is off on another journey to the heart, with songs of seductive melancholy.

The music is crafted by Doherty and co-producer Michael Keeney with James Delaney's piano and the Arco String Quartet providing the signature sounds. Actually the real signature is Doherty's deep, unhurried voice and his acoustic guitar picking, exploring the space between Donegal and America, even reaching for Sinatra in the big ballad I Saw the Rose or echoing Cohen in I'm Going Now.

Serious recognition is overdue.

Listen to 2 tracks here
'Seeing Things' on YouTube
'Seeing Things' on SoundCloud