Julie Dougherty has been a very busy lady of late, dropping two completely different CDs this year. After releasing a solo roots album last summer, Dougherty just released last October this Julie Dougherty Band CD Land Of Dreams. Dougherty has a more folk-rock feeling on this very new Julie Dougherty Band album. She gets more belty here than on her In This Place album. There’s a lot of snappy guitar work from Jim Scoppa and there is plenty of drive from the rhythm section of Dougherty’s husband Woody Woodward on bass and Jack O’Soro on drums.
Title track “Land Of Dreams” opens the album with an assertive, climbing vocal. Dougherty has a way of singing in a gritty yet accessible manner, making it easy to hear this song on Adult Alternative radio. Here, she hit the ground running, pushing her vocal line over a catchy electric guitar chord. Scoppa presses out a rustic melodic line that echoes country while perfectly echoing Dougherty’s spirited nature.
“I’ve Been There Before” feels empowered in the self-assured vocal phrasing and the chorus jumps out at the listener because the singer seems emboldened by her own message. Dougherty carries the listener along for her ride, through reflections on bad relationships, expressing the strength of someone who’s been to hell and back and has no intention of returning. Her anthem gets bracing support from the crack players behind her. Scoppa offers up another tasty guitar line while the rhythm section keeps a feisty pulse beneath it all.
Dougherty goes into the mellower mid-tempo glide “You Have No Choice” with a thoughtful self-restraint. She gives just the right amount of lift to keep it aloft without pushing the definite message into her listener’s face. It’s a treat to hear her switch gears to a vocal approach that moves around a folk rock beat with much personal finesse.
Dougherty and her boys swagger along on “Below Or Above.” This one finds the rhythm section funking it up a bit while the electric guitar tosses in shards of edgy motion. Dougherty shows her rock and roll influences with her keen sense of how much to assert herself and when to pull back a little bit. She manages to take her time and still kick butts.
One of this album’s coolest numbers is “Back At My Front Door.” Not only does it feature Dave Brown on dobro, the song finds Dougherty singing roots style honky tonk with unforced authenticity. The listener wants to amble into the local saloon and pull the local honey pot onto the dance floor and swing her around to the brittle lead guitar melody from Scoppa.
“China Blue” plays out at a gentle pace with light touches in the instrumentation. Over that sweetly developed backdrop, Dougherty emotes in a lush, tender delivery the tale of a struggling working girl. The lyrical description and the singer’s heartfelt delivery make the girl a fully realized person that the listener can care about. This is simply a song you have to feel as much you listen to it, and Dougherty coaxes the listener into the character’s psyche.
“That’s Just Wrong” is a protest song about the way the world is today. Dougherty pronounces her grievances with her singer-songwriter flare for making direct points in gentle language and easeful delivery. The warm broth of acoustic and electric guitar grit is another reason to follow the details in this number.
“Bittersweet” lets Dougherty show what she can do when she slows things down a bit. A warm gentle effusion of voice per each verse turn’s her voice into a beautiful, natural musical instrument. She offers each note with the same kind of precision a guitarist picks with or a horn player presses with. It’s another treat for the ears each time this singer accents or inflects.
Dougherty keeps the tempo down on “I’m getting out” but sings in a huskier timber with a more assertive technique. This is the kind of honky tonk belting over blues guitar swagger that serious listeners can listen to all day long. Dougherty has, over the last 40 years, honed her voice into a multi-functioning Swiss army knife of techniques, timbres, colors and tones. She can take out whichever one she chooses without ever losing her own personal sound and feeling. “I’m Getting Out” is a slow boiling dynamo of vocal power that only a few singers can handle.
Dougherty closes out her Julie Dougherty Band album with the personal loss song “Heaven’s Gate.” Guest vocalist/mandolin player Taylor Armerding and guest vocalist/fiddler Jake Amerding compliment the song well by wrapping their voices and instruments around Dougherty’s natural flow of beauteous notes, notes that express the yearning in her heart.
Land Of Dreams is another fine Dougherty product recorded at BK Studios in Saugus, Massachusetts and engineered by Tim Phillips The Julie Dougherty Band excels at straddling the worlds of rockers and singer-songwriters, coming up with their personal brand of folk-rock, if one must put a label on it. Dougherty will have listeners contemplating the meaning of life along with her, as if she’s conversing with them personally and carrying them through her stories on the strength of her voice. She will also have them, when the time comes, moving their feet to something fun.