There are countless musicians on the planet, all soaking up sounds from the ether. And though many are very, very good, rather fewer have that certain something which makes them special. It’s impossible to describe on paper, instead it has to be felt. So check out Tom Doughty – and the chances are that you too will hear something that makes scalps tingle….
“I was lucky to be around at a time when music was being liberated,” say Tom, “I was only seven, going on eight, when there was this explosion of tremendous stuff from every quarter. The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds and others were literally electrifying, whilst on the acoustic front the likes of Davy Graham, John Renbourn, Bert Jansch, Martin Carthy, Nic Jones and Wizz Jones were doing absolutely astonishing things with the guitar. Then there were the great blues artists like Howlin’ Wolf, Big Bill Broonzy and John Lee Hooker, as well as troubadours like Woody Guthrie, Dave van Ronk and of course a young Bob Dylan. What they had in common was a tremendous love of music coupled with a willingness to challenge the rules and artificial boundaries. I wanted to learn from all of them, without ever falling into the trap of simply being a mimic….”
By the time he was seventeen, Tom was an accomplished finger-style guitarist and mandolin player on his local folk club circuit, ready to take the next stride forward. But fate intervened when a motor-cycle accident resulted in a permanent spinal injury and extensive damage to his hands, which is just about every musicians worst nightmare: “It was a dark time, with the uncertainty about what I would be able to do on a guitar in the future being really difficult to deal with. What helped keep me going was the determination to find a way to play. It took a long time and a lot of false dawns – plus of course my career in Social work put things on hold, but in the last few years it’s all come together – and in a way that others seem to connect with.”
As those others include guitar maestros Woody Mann, Bob Brozman and Debashish Bhattachryra it’s fair to say that Tom has a bit more than mere technical ability to show for his efforts. Using his own style of finger-picks and a glass/metal slide of his own design, Tom draws on the blues and other forms to create a distinctive and compelling soundscape that appeals across the spectrum. “I’ve always liked to go back to the kind of things that innovators like Charley Patton and Robert Johnson did, in part because their music is timeless, though mostly it’s because there is huge scope to present it in ways that people maybe haven’t heard before. It’s the same with more contemporary writers like Randy Newman and Lennon/McCartney – my take on ‘Eleanor Rigby’ seems to have struck a chord with audiences everywhere, which I’m dead chuffed about. And of course I also do a lot of my own material, so hopefully there’s something for everybody.”
With two critically acclaimed CDs – The Bell and the recently re-launched Running Free already available, Tom is busy putting a third together. But much as he enjoys what the studio has to offer, playing live is his passion: “Every artist will tell you that an audience makes a difference. I’ve had the privilege of appearing at events like the International Guitar Festival and have also performed in North America, Europe and India. Sometimes it’s to festival crowds, sometimes in small clubs and at workshops, but it’s always special, always a privilege.”
Tom’s experiences, his take on music and his rare artistic ability could fill volumes, but maybe Michael Prince’s review best sums it all up – ‘Tom’s music is organic and free. A must see performer.’