The first album (Among Trees in 1998) by guitarist Francis Doughty (Dow-tee) of Wendell, Massachusetts kind of floored me, in the emotional sense. It was the kind of acoustic guitar album my ears have always gravitated towards and though Doughtys influences are apparent (John Fahey, Leo Kottke, Edward Gerhard, James Taylor), the sound emanating from his guitar is something all his own.
A steel-string guitarist, Doughty has a likeable style and a repertoire of acoustic instrumentals that approach the spiritual. Theres a decided pastoral influence at work in his songs and his first offering remains in rotation at my house years later.
Doughty is quoted on his Web site (www.fdoughty.com) in talking about his guitarwork and the reasons behind what he does with this:
"For me there's a necessity to playing the guitar that would be impossible to overcome The songs are an important part of my language through which I musically express something that's real to me - something I can share. The music makes a connection."
With Under the Sky (2001) Doughty has returned with his quietly contemplative, sometimes meditative guitar musings on the world around him. His songs remain nature oriented, organic, and quietly graceful. They are concise slices of sound, fully realized, but not overdone.
The album cover reproduces a vibrant watercolor Under the Sky by artist Billy Hassell which serves as a kind of illustration of the albums contents.
1. Pearl-Streaked Morning
2. First Impressions
4. Blue Darter
5. Sheebeg Sheemore (T. Carolan)
6. (We're) Getting Closer
7. Mole's Moan (G. Muldaur)
8. Elusive Cranberries
9. Busted Bicycle (L. Kottke)
10. Steve's Pain
11. Star Spangles on the Pond
13. As Clouds Dance with the Moon
Total Time: 43.15. All tracks by Doughty except as noted. Album produced by Francis Doughty, Bruce Kahn, and Laura Doughty.
Francis Doughty (6 and 12-string Taylor guitars), Christine Horn (assorted percussion: congas, bongos, high-hat, etc., on tracks 1, 4, 6, and 9)
Doughtys guitar work (all Taylor guitars) remains one of great nuance. His playing is both nimble, clean, and surprisingly emotive. As his music appeals best when the listener is in a certain frame of mind, the music can be quite evocative and stirring. That's not to say that it is all meditative though. Doughty changes tempo here and there and his cover of Leo Kottke's Busted Bicycle is spot-on.
He has opened up his sound palette a bit here with the added percussion, but nothing goes so far as to detract from his guitarwork. Doughty seems to have found his template with this album. This is acoustic music as background on one sense of the scale, but also music as an engaging conversation between guitarist and audience. Four stars and recommended for acoustic music fans.
Under the Sky can be found at select stores in Massachusetts and online through www.cdbaby.com, or through Doughtys site at www.fdoughty.com.