CD cover for Nomad Dooley, Trying to Survive

If Spitting Image was commissioned again, in these contemporary times, I truly believe that three hours per episode would not be long enough to capture the madness of modernity; respect to Nomad Dooley for accepting the challenge and producing an album that attempts to make sense of all around us…promising “rousing songs of protest, hope and peace.”

The Rousing songs of Nomad Dooley’s album – Trying to Survive – wander and meander between such worldly subjects as inequality, hardship and just bloody enjoying life. Not forgetting the hymn to our beloved Cornwall: a Cornish Memory. However, these nomadic songs are not lost, on their audience, as the writer Dooley is completely aware of his destination. These songs are personal, subjective and honed for the individual perspective, although, the images of the CD sleeve obscure, anonymise and hide the identity of our musical protagonist…almost as if he personally is unimportant? Mr. Dooley is included in the collective photo of the band and the obvious inference is that our singer-song writer is only interested in the collective, in society, in humanity as a whole. Unlike bloody Thatcher…how liberal and traditional?           

These songs are enhanced by very traditional instruments. Yes, the acoustic guitars and ringing chords are a constant, furthermore, the folky mosaic is spiced-up by the mournful and exuberant violin (Hazel Flannigan) that intertwines throughout the album. From the lugubrious opening of “Billy” to the melancholy backdrop of “Money Alone” the violin is a complimentary addition. Fitting, because for many the violin is the symbol for romance and tragedy and both subjects are addressed subtly on the album. The bodhran (Lady D) has traditionally been the heartbeat of many a Celtic rebel song – the sound of smoky back rooms and unblinking defiance – accordingly the earthy beat of the traditional drum is met with no protestations here…                       

As we know protest songs come in many forms and perhaps the caustic yet casual defiance of Nina Simone’s Mississippi Goddam is not quite reached here but Nomad Dooley is not afraid to squint through his telescopic sight for his moving targets. The titular “Trying to Survive” is a deceptively jaunty ditty – much like Simone’s – that points his high-powered barrel, metaphorically, at the privileged elite who offer their viewpoint from a socially distanced advantaged point. The language is emotive and ND squeezes the trigger slowly to ensure a clean shot, metaphorically: “the clown they call our leader.” Indeed.            

Unlike the “clown” I won’t lie to you, there does not appear to be much hope currently – even the Brexiteers, who inform us they “won” still appear angry and without hope – but as ever, hope must be sought out. Freedom Fighter is a paean to Che Guevara and the addictive chorus -“We will replace our cruel leaders” – is ultimately undoable and maybe a triumph of hope over experience but at least we can cling to the sentiment like a sponsored parachutist holding on to the professional jumper. Although the descent, I fear, is not going to be peaceful…           

Peace is unfortunately not on the agenda for many of the political parties it would seem, however, Nomad Dooley and his clan are clearly at peace with their musical elan. It is with some professional pride that I detected subtle shades of their influences – Levellers and New Model Army – before I read the accompanying literature. For those in the know New Model Army was the name of Oliver Cromwell’s crack fighting force and I am sure that Nomad Dooley take professional pride in a CD that has presented their truth… “warts and all.” 

By: The Swilgate Scuttler

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