DONEGAL BORN singer-songwriter Kevin Doherty, of Four Men and a Dog fame, has just released his third solo album, Telegraph, to wide acclaim.
In a five-star review for The Irish Times, Joe Breen enthused that there “are few inventive writers who have such an easy and winning way with melody, and certainly only a handful who have managed to create a signature sound so rich in Americana...undoubtedly one of the year’s best albums.”
Doherty is now on a promotional tour supporting the album and he will perform Telegraph - the Show at the Druid Lane Theatre on Thursday April 8 at 8pm.
However this is more than a straightforward, common-or-garden gig as Doherty has brought on board friends from the world of stage and screen to create accompanying pieces of film and audio to enhance the whole experience.
His collaborators include noted actors Eleanor Methven and Cathy Belton, film-makers Enda McCallion and Kieron J Walsh, and production designer Alan Farquharson.
Over a Friday evening phone-call, Doherty explained how the idea for Telegraph - the Show came about.
“It’s been an evolution I guess, starting with the album,” he commences. “Once we had it recorded I felt we had something that was pretty good and the next stage was how were we going to present it. Rather than going down the traditional route which I’ve done before I thought I’d get the views of a few friends who work in theatre about how shows are presente,d etc.
“I feel the words are quite important on the new album and I wanted to celebrate that aspect of it. I’ve known Eleanor Methven for some time and when I talked to her she liked the idea of making it into a show rather than just the usual song/audience/performer/thankyou/goodnight thing.
“It was her that steered me toward the audio-visual approach. She has been absolutely vital to the whole project; she brought in the production designer Alan Farquharson and he’s been vital also because he put the whole thing together.
“I was fortunate to know a few film makers like Enda McCallion and Kieron J Walsh. I gave them the record and just asked them were there any songs on it they felt they could do something with; I didn’t want to impose any notions on what it should be or how it should be.
“They came up with different ideas; there are about six film pieces that run during songs and they’re all very different. As a whole what it does is feed back into what the songs are about and that landscape which they hope to inhabi,t which is somewhere between here and America I guess.
“Audiences have really taken something from it in the gigs we’ve done so far, and have been moved by it. It does touch people, and I can see that from the stage, it seems to enfold them in some way.”
Doherty’s reference to his music’s American influence is borne out by Telegraph’s warm and engaging songs whose origins seem to be as much Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia as Blue Stack Mountains of Donegal.
“I think that Americana is in the musical DNA in Donegal,” Doherty observes. “Growing up there I was drawn completely to American music. I suppose I’m pretty firmly rooted there music-wise.”
Doherty’s Americana credentials received the ultimate seal of approval when, with Four Men and a Dog, he met members of legendary ensemble The Band and went on to record at Levon Helm’s Woodstock home.
“We met them at a festival in Norway and the night ended up with us sharing songs and stories with Levon Helm and Rick Danko in a hotel bedroom,” he says. “We got the invite to go record at Levon’s place and we took them up on it.
“We made two albums there and my first solo album was recorded there too. For me, and what I grew up with and was yearning for, to be there playing and having Levon Helm at the drum kit was something else, incredible. What was even better was that The Band on their last album, Jubilation, recorded one of my songs which was a huge thing for me.”
Doherty also enjoys high-calibre musical accompaniment on Telegraph including guitarist Conor Brady, pianist James Delaney, Paul Moore on bass, and Paul Rodden on banjo.
Telegraph - the Show promises to be a memorable occasion. Tickets are €15/12 and can be booked through the Town Hall on 091 - 569777.