Ten for 2010 – Julia and the Doogans

Julia and the Doogans were another early discovery for me this year. I owe AyeTunes a wee tip of the head for these folks, as it was his flagging up of a free gig at the Mill back in March that introduced me to the joys of this band. I’ve seen them a couple of times this year and they always seem to be supporting the least likely bands. Most notably I saw them in the University of Stirling student union supporting Blind Wolves who a) could not have been more different if they tried and b) are a bit rubbish. Which I do appreciate is pretty close to sacrilege in some circles if what I hear from my former compatriots at Air3 radio (probably not still claiming to be ‘Straight Out of Cornton’ these days) is true, but I suspect the contrast with Julia’s gorgeous voice beforehand did them no favours. Though speaking of former Air3 Radio compatriots I did have a surreal moment when listening to the Scotland Introducing podcast during the summer and instead of Vic Galloway’s dulcet tones I was greeted with an entirely different but equally familiar voice. “That’s never that Ally McRae!” says I, but lo and behold it was. I hear he’s one of the folks behind Detour Scotland but I still can’t get past the fact that a voice I used to hear 1350AM will soon be on 99.5 FM…

Anyway enough pointless nostalgia and back to the band. There’s something strangely appealing about the ensemble format, of songs that can be stripped down to just a guitar and a xylophone if necessary or expanded out to something almost orchestral in the rich mix of sounds blending together when all members are present. Listening to them recorded, it’s hard to imagine Come Home or New York City without their cello line and yet they work without it. Oft times the flautist gets a little lost in the blend of the recording, but on stage the flute makes a vital contribution. Perhaps its something about Julia’s voice itself, pure and beautiful, providing a consistent through-line on which the other elements and instruments can be hung or removed as required by practicalities. Perhaps that’s why they work as a ‘and the’ band where others don’t, each of the ‘Doogans’ providing something special to create a richer sound, with Julia’s voice tying them all together to make a coherent whole.

They do a nice line in rather cute home-made music videos, I personally have a soft spot for the little pigs of Maps of the World, but appreciate most people prefer the aesthetic of the videos for New York and their gorgeous cover of The Scientist, so it’s the video for the former that I’m sharing today. It could be quite a sad song when you think about it but the video keeps the tone whimsically bittersweet and oddly hopeful.