Ned Doheny + Nev Cottee Band, Soup Kitchen, Manchester, 20 March 2015.
In recent years the music industry has witnessed its fair share of resurrected careers of immensely talented musicians who fell by the wayside several decades ago due to a multitude of factors, but largely because they did not fit in with the constricting demands that the industry stands or falls by. This was the case of Mexican-American singer-songwriter Rodriguez who some forty years later thankfully had a wonderful film documentary to champion his cause and introduce him to a whole new audience, supplemented by the re-issue of his few cult album releases. In the case of 1970s southern Californian singer Ned Doheny, however, the alternative route to renewed interest has been a slightly more obscure, but no less interesting one. His 1976 album ‘Hard Candy’ which got lost among a plethora of releases at the time started to enjoy a new lease of life as the result of DJs from a sub genre of the disco movement, Balearic disco, playing a killer song from the album, namely ‘Get It Up For Love’, uplifting and laid back in equal measure. Subsequently, the album re-issue was eagerly promoted by indie record stores and a young audience began to hear once more the skilled song writing craft of Ned and his mellifluous voice. The fact that the album cover revealed a hipper than thou Ned in his twenties merely reinforced Doheny’s street credibility to this entirely new coterie of fans, the majority of whom were probably not even born when the singer cut the songs.
Fast forward to the present and in early 2015 a solo UK tour beckoned for Ned Doheny and one that would finally cement his reputation. This took place in the confined surroundings of the basement of the Soup Kitchen in Manchester’s bohemian Northern Quarter where there was great anticipation among the largely late twenty and mid-thirty something’s who had picked the album up, and were now able to see their new idol in the flesh. Enter onto stage one Ned Doheny in the most casual and downbeat of manner conceivable, so much so that the audience members had to blink twice to realise that this was indeed main man who was about to commence the performance. What fans of the revival album could not have realised is that in a live solo acoustic setting, it was the folk roots of the singer-songwriter that become all too evident and what was particularly impressive throughout the evening was his mastery of the guitar, taking a tune off on an engaging riff in mid-song, exploring where it might go and that made the music all the more enjoyable for all concerned.
The voice has lost little of its youthful troubadour edge and even if Ned was now in his sixth decade, he still managed to look a youthful veteran and one who was especially eager to communicate with his attentive and receptive audience. Drawing to a large extent upon songs from the ‘Hard Candy’ album (his late-1970s minor hit, ‘To prove my love’ was ignored altogether), in acoustic mode Ned Doheny is less the Laurel Canyon graduate that his long-time friend Jackson Browne was, and more akin to the highly rhythmic folk-blues of Terry Callier who so enthralled the UK from the late 1990s onwards and is another example of the resurrection model. One sincerely hopes that his debut album, ‘Postcards from Hollywood’, from 1973 will once again see the light of day and at the time it proved to be a costly enterprise for Ned since Asylum producer David Geffen required the singer to put up the bulk of the money to record it. Much like his fellow period singers, Ned Doheny derives a good deal of his lyrics from personal experiences and in Ned’s case this inevitably means from relationships with women who seem to occupy a good deal of his life and at times there was hilarious confusion between stories concerning the various wives. This led on to a series of highly entertaining, and in places revealing, monologues about life and audience members were quick to remark on this and on occasion to engage in one-on-one conversations with Ned who was only too happy to oblige and provide clarification as and when required. Life in southern California living on a ranch was another of Ned’s preoccupations and, for those not already familiar with Ned’s background, he inherited part of the fortune of his father’s Texan oil company, though as he was at pains to point out, fame and fortune comes at a price. A rendition of the now anthemic ‘Get it up for love’ went down a storm, but the same could be said for several of the songs that the audience sang along to in parts and instinctively knew the intros to.
The question nonetheless remains of why Ned Doheny’s music should so appeal to a new and younger generation and the answer would appear to lie in the timeless quality of the lyrics to recount failed relationships in his twenties that continue to resonate and are as pertinent now as they were first time round. In this sense, then, Ned Doheny does belong to the classic singer-songwriter tradition and has been influenced by his contemporaries of the calibre of Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and close friend Jackson Browne. No encore was initially planned, but Ned did relent and repeat a version of ‘I’ve got your number ‘ before he played out with a lengthy instrumental solo. An imminent Japanese tour with full band will have been embarked upon where he is still treated with great reverence and where he scored with his albums back in the 1970s and stayed there for a period in the 1980s.
In support of the main act, Mancunian group New Cottee Band opened up proceedings with their very own brand of alt.country that immediately takes one back to the mid-late 1970s and this included the most melodic of slide guitars and subtle use of keyboards. The music was at once introspective and melancholic, yet it was the general excellence of the musicianship that shone through their forty-five minute set and this was typified by songs such as ‘Follow the Sun’. Seemingly inspired by a wealth of classy folk-country and other musicians ranging from the Flying Burrito Brothers and Emmylou Harris to Leonard Cohen (in the voice phrasing at least), they showcased material from their last album, ‘Stations’, as well as a new 10″ (Aficionado recordings) which is a foretaste of their new album due out in the near future. Departing from their overall relaxed feel that set the audience at ease and put them in a good mood for what was to follow, the New Cottee Band ended on a high with a rousing and more danceable number that left the crowd more than satisfied. Definitely a band to watch out for in the forthcoming months.