Liam Docherty – Modern. Magic. Melody. | Album Review

Liam Docherty – Modern. Magic. Melody.

Self-Release – 2020

12 tracks; 39 minutes

This is the debut disc from Liam Docherty who is just thirteen years of age. Before readers start thinking about other very young artists one should note that Liam is a solo acoustic blues performer, not an aspiring blues-rocker or SRV wannabe (though he does say on his website that he is saving to buy a decent electric guitar!). Liam started playing at just four and has performed in public since he was seven. Seeing Tommy Emmanuel in concert and meeting him after the show was an inspirational starting point: Tommy’s version of Doc Watson’s “Deep River Blues” got Liam started and discovering Robert Johnson put him on the road to finding Charlie Patton, Son House, Muddy Waters, etc. A native of British Columbia, Canada, Liam is known locally as the ‘Red-Headed Blues Boy’ and he seems to love all the masters of the blues but also writes his own songs, inspired by the old-time blues and this debut release combines seven of Liam’s songs with five classic covers, each a favorite of Liam’s. Everything was recorded live off the floor by producer Doug Cox and there are no overdubs or splices, so, to quote acoustic great Doug McLeod, Liam played these songs “exactly like that”.

Liam’s finger-picking style is terrific, nowhere better than on that song that first inspired young Liam, “Deep River Blues”. Liam still has a higher pitched youth’s voice alongside his great dexterity on the guitar. A higher singing style was typical of Skip James and that actually works in Liam’s favor as he tackles “Cherry Ball Blues”. Big Bill Broonzy’s “Hey Hey Baby” is played quite faithfully and the covers are completed with two from the Woody Guthrie songbook: a stately “Vigilante Man” and the traditional “Rising Sun Blues”, better known as “House Of The Rising Sun”, not perhaps the most appropriate set of lyrics for a thirteen-year old!

Liam’s own songs show great respect for the traditions. Three are Liam’s solo compositions: two instrumentals, “Banned Blues” and a short instrumental “Intermission” sits neatly between the Skip James song and “House Of The Rising Sun”. Liam’s “Wipe My Weeping Eyes” is a striking opener with its references to rising floodwaters reminding us of classics like “When The Levee Breaks”. The other songs have writing credits shared with K Docherty (Liam’s father?): “Drive Away Blues” is an interesting song with a mysterious theme as “he sprinkled hoot foot powder all around his Daddy’s door”, but quite why that means that he has to leave town remains unclear. The album closer “These Blues Are Red” adds Gerry Barnum to the writing credits and Liam plays some storming slide on this upbeat tune.

It will be interesting to follow this young man’s development. Sure, the vocals are still those of a youth, but that will change and we already know what a talented player Liam is, so the future looks bright for him.

Meanwhile let’s celebrate the debut of a young player whose heart is in the blues, rather than rock!

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