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‘On the Outside’ is Sally Doherty’s fourth release to date. It strikes a perfect balance between her unique worlds of serenely moving songs and darkly mysterious filmic pieces. This album provides the listener with an hour of intensely soothing yet uplifting and deeply absorbing music; Doherty’s most beautiful compositions so far. Fourteen of the sixteen tracks are songs and are lyrically both moving and poetic.
Her voice is warm and intimate at times, soaring and almost operatic at others. It is accompanied by a variety of instrumental ensembles from string trio to string orchestra, from harp and strings to piano and woodwind to classical guitar, double bass and Latin American percussion. Doherty’s arrangements compliment her singing very sensitively. Textures range from sparse and tentative to exhilarating and orchestral. Musically this release has a classical feel but other worldly influences can be heard in subtle ways. For example the North African influence on her previous release, ‘Empire of Death’, can be traced with ‘One Voice 3’, a thread of continuity from that CD, and also on ‘Balance’, which also shows signs of some influence from Indian music. On this release, the all-female Sumacs band consist of Sally Doherty: vocals, flute; Emma Smith: piano, violin, djembe; Liz Hanks: cello; Lizz Lipscombe: violin; Karen Burland: clarinet, bass clarinet, backing vocals. This line up is augmented with the addition of harp, classical guitar, double bass, oboe, tablas and Latin American percussion. The lush sounds of these instruments with Sally’s voice make for an extremely moving listening experience.
“This album, like ‘Sleepy Memory’, is very personal. It’s my favourite CD so far which is fortunate as it really seemed to sap life from me. It began with a song called ‘Balance’, which was musically inspired by both Indian and North African music. This almost became the title of the album but ‘On the Outside’ seemed much more appropriate, not just because it is the title of a track on the album, which is actually about a homeless man who I see walking through the park near my house, but also because I feel that my music doesn’t fit in anywhere really. I see this as a positive thing but I suppose that it doesn’t make The Sumacs very easily ‘marketable’… ah well. I listen to quite a lot of Latin American music, primarily the works of Antonio Carlos Jobim, but also the work of Villa Lobos, who has written some beautiful music. I also love some of the French composers; Debussy, Ravel, Faure. The list could go on and on. I wanted the songs to be as immediate as some popular songs, not in the sense of pop music, but more like jazz standards, folk ballads, theatre songs or Jobim’s bossa nova songs. The role of the arrangements was then to enhance the classical nature of the pieces, although some of the songs, eg ‘Some Never Know’, actually began with the whole arrangement intact. I knew that it had to be for three strings before I began writing it. I love string quartets and hopefully this also comes across with the generous use of cello and violins. Elements of different world musics have also been an inspiration. I am very lucky to be working with the Sumac girls (Emma Smith, Karen Burland, Liz Hanks and Lizz Lipscombe), whose beautiful playing is also an inspiration. I think, or at least hope, that the songs speak for themselves so I won’t say anymore.”—Sally Doherty, 2000
Reviews of On the Outside
“Every now and then there comes an album that flies like the elusive ‘curve ball’. ‘On the Outside’ from Sally Doherty and the Sumacs is just such a record. Sounding unlike anything else around, its genre defying mix of the classical and the exotic both enthrals and captivates. A bold, exciting fusion of strings, flutes, clarinet, piano, chorales, South American rhythms and North African vocal intonations, On the Outside weaves an ethereal ambience of sound that is in turns joyful, mesmeric, poignant and haunting. Brilliant ensemble playing from the Sumac girls—Liz Hanks (cello), Lizz Lipscombe (violin), Karen Burland (clarinet), and Emma Smith (piano)—creates wistful and intriguing sonic textures over which composer/lyricist and singer Sally Doherty’s supple and sensuous vocals can shimmer and soar. Indeed it is Doherty’s distinctive voice with its occasional Arabic inflections (check out ‘Balance’, and the wonderfully dark allure of ‘One Voice (Part 3)’) that gives ‘On the Outside’ a unique timbre. Poetic and mystical in tone and lyrical content, Doherty’s songs possess dream-like qualities in which images of the four elements (‘This Is What She Said’, ‘Loss’, ‘Summer’s End’) and the sea (‘I Understand You’, ‘Gold, part 1’, and ‘On the Outside’) are recurring motifs. An excellent follow-up to 1998’s critically acclaimed ‘Sleepy Memory’, ‘On the Outside’ further refines, develops, and finally surpasses that earlier album’s distinctive soundscapes. A record of great assuredness and irresistible tonality, ‘On the Outside’ is the perfect companion for those quieter, more contemplative moments: exquisite.”—Colin Hall, What’s On in London/Rock ‘n’ Reel, UK.
“Now there’s no need to tell who is Sally Doherty, where and with whom she played in different musical projects. ‘On the Outside’ is Sally’s fourth solo album. It is some kind of continuation of the second and the third albums. Musically, ‘On the Outside’ is similar to ‘Sleepy Memory’ but to my mind, the melody lines have become more complex; they don’t lie on the surface but like a pearl the beauty of which is hidden from the eyes of the uninitiated. On the other hand, after the release of ‘Empire of Death’ Sally seems to still be under impression of Oriental magic. This is proved by ‘One Voice (Part Three)’—the first two are found on ‘Empire of Death’), and also by Eastern music elements in ‘Balance’ and ‘Silver’. However, all these songs including Spanish ‘Bolero’ (adaptation of Garcia Lorca’s verses) differ from the central mood of the album without frustrating its integrity. ‘On the Outside’ is one of the best examples of High European Neoclassics. Sally and her band have managed to make the album professionally and qualitatively thanks to Sally’s brilliant voice that amazes the listener with its warm-heartedness and unusual timbre, and the music played purely on live instruments—piano, violins, clarinet, djembe, cellos, flutes, tambourine, oboe, harp, etc. At the end I would like to draw readers’ attention to the songs ‘Our Senses’, ‘The Wicker Man’ (from the cult pagan movie) and ‘Loss’ with marvelous music and lyrics… 8 out of 8 points.”—Anton Shekhovtsov, Black Kobzar webzine, Ukraine).
“’On the Outside’ is an appropriate title for Sally Doherty’s latest album. The fact of the matter is that she is out on her own with a sound and style that is totally hers… Nor does Sally write conventional songs, certainly not in the traditional verse-verse-chorus style of most pop music. And it all owes as much to classical and world music as it does to pop. The end result is 16 pieces of original, refreshing music, with Sally’s beautiful voice going from the softest of whispers to almost operatic leaps. Lyrically she is enigmatic, often with an almost dreamlike quality.”—Martin Lilleker, The Sheffield Telegraph, UK.
”…One thing that struck me was the sheer depth and magnificence of the music and musicians. Doherty’s voice is spellbinding and the instrumentation is sublime. The Sumacs wrap you up in melodies, smother you with beauty and then gently leave you, as softly as they came. The tunes are far more accessible than standard classically-based music, and even though Doherty has a voice that is clearly capable of some serious operatic histrionics, she seems to prefer to use it to deliver captivating harmonies rather than just to show off. Doherty, whose musical palette has included Bossa and a spell in a Sheffield punk band, is clearly a consummate musician. Her arrangements (the album is almost exclusively written and arranged by her) are inventive and genre defying (classical is too strict, folk too basic and jazz too nondescript) and trying to pick out a high point of the album is like picking hay out of a haystack. The closest thing to a genre that you could put Doherty in is soul music, not Soul in the sense of Marvin or Otis, but as in music from the soul, music that speaks to you from a deep heartfelt vein that runs through all art. With what is, presumably, a total absence of studio trickery and technology, she has created a record that is at least as sonic as something by Spiritualized or Radiohead, and if you can stop yourself becoming immersed in the swirling strings and plaintive pianos, you will see that the lyrics read like poetry and consistently match the splendour of the music. Whilst this album has not made me want to rush out and immerse myself in the world of classical music, it has made me want to rush and find out more about Sally Doherty. A durham21 thumbs up.”—Simon Ibison, www.durham21.co.uk Dec 2000.
“Sally Doherty is one of the more active singers coming from World Serpent house. She has a brilliant solo career and is the female vocalist and flute player of the famous act Sol Invictus. Because of her qualities she has the esteem of Tony Wakeford: all these qualities are concentrated in the new album ‘On the Outside’, following the previous one ‘Sleepy Memory’ (re-released a few months ago from WS). I have to say that in ‘On the Outside’ Sally is really inspired. So she gives us delicate acoustic ballads such as ‘This is What She Said’ and ‘I Understand You’, or chamber music as in ‘Some Never Know’. Then comes out the ethnic influence, and tracks like ‘Balance’ or ‘One Voice (Part 3)’ are born, a muezzin singing with an angel’s voice. ‘Gold (Part 1)’, ‘In Spring’ or the last song ‘On the Outside’ have fabulous and progressive atmospheres that make me think about the past times… We can even find light tracks that break the melancholic mood of the album, such as ‘Even When You’re Laughing’ and the beautiful ‘Wicker Man’ (soundtrack of the film). Among them, ‘Bolero’ is particular for the Spanish mood, it reminds me of slow bossa novas and has a text from Federico Garcia Lorca. So, every song of the album is a delicate watercolour, a casket containing delights you have to appreciate and taste in quiet, with no hurry. Listen to it and you will not repent.”—Ferruccio Filippi, Grind Zone, Italy, Dec 2000.
“We already know of Sally Doherty because of the praise that she got for the debut Sieben album, “Forbid the Sun’s Escape’ and for the fascinating solo album, ‘Empire of Death’. Her return with the Sumacs, a female quintet, on this, her fourth album, is one of absolute beauty, christaline and moving. The use of classical instruments on ‘On the Outside’ ranges from piano, cello, violins, clarinet, flute, oboe and harp. Like a subtle apparition the lonely sound of the guitar in ‘Bolero’ accompanies an adaptation of ‘La Cogida y la muerte’ by Garcia Lorca, which is delivered in a delightful atmosphere by Sally’s (the sweetest) voice. This voice stands out and has a gift of communication and an unquestionable capacity. It displays virtuosity and an absence of affectation; resoundingly exciting. The CD is also presented in a beautiful cover… inevitably one song will be compared with the version by Nature and Organisation. This being ‘Willow’s Song’ from the film ‘The Wicker Man’. (7/8)”—Paolo Bertoni, Blow Up, Italy, Dec 2000.
“Piano, cello, violin, clarinet, tablas, guitar, double bass, percussion, rainstick, oboe, tambourine, djembe, wind chimes and voice are the main ingredients of ‘On the Outside’, Sally Doherty’s last work, an English artist that sings, composes, produces and collaborates in different projects like Sol Invictus, Sieben, L’Orchestre Noir or Shock Headed Peters. In ‘On the Outside’ Sally presents us a collection of intimate and personal pieces exquisitely orchestrated and with a flavour worthy of being savoured in the strictest intimacy, tasting each note as if it was a sip of good wine (Spanish, of course). Sally dares to show her personal style in songs of very different conception, sometimes diving into other styles. In this way, we are surprised by the use of Latin percussion in ‘Bolero’, a beautiful personal adaptation of the poem ‘Llanto por Ignacio Sánchez Mejías’ of our Federico García Lorca; the approach to ethnic oriental textures of the beautiful ‘Balance’ or ‘One Voice’, giving the rainstick a tremendous atmosphere to this last piece; or certain soul shades in the vocal melody of ‘Gold’ or ‘Even When You’re Laughing’. Everything, of course, with the classic musical background that Sally imprints her compositions with and with some harrowing atmospheres, beautiful, magnificent. But besides this, we also have classicism and lyricism in the naked, cold and melancholic beauty of ‘This is What She Said’, ‘On the Outside’, ‘Our Senses’ or ‘I Understand You’ (this piece makes me shiver), wrapped up in languid violins and ethereal pianos; the fragile and hymnal ‘Some Never Know’; the delicate ‘Silver’; the movielike ‘Summer’s End’ and ‘The Wicker Man’ (this is an adaptation of the piece of Paul Giovanni for the film ‘The Wicker Man’). In this case comparisons are hateful, but if Sally had put music and/or voice to ‘Gladiator’ I believe that Lisa Gerrard would lose the battle. Sally Doherty and her Sumacs (Lizz Lipscombe, Emma Smith, Liz Hanks and Karen Burland) give us 16 small jewels of feeling and emotion; 16 gems of careful detail and infinite shades. 16 reasons to love music. I sincerely recommend this album to you, tape it and conserve the original inside a glass urn with a sign that says ‘Handle with care’, and so when you arrive home after an exhausting workday you can enjoy your time while you listen this jewel.”—Alfonso Algora, ProgVisions, Spain, February 2001.
“Melancholy can be so wonderful… this feeling might surround us and who doesn’t like to suffer from the pain of the world from time to time? Sometimes it can be nice to suffer and it can even cure… and how I love to suffer on my sofa at home while listening to Sally’s voice. ‘On the Outside’ is the fourth solo release of the young lady from Sheffield who is mainly known through the co-operation with Tony Wakeford. But in the framework of Sol Invictus her real talent is hardly visible… no, only the one who has listened to ‘On the Outside’ or any of the other three solo albums will understand where the true strong sides of Sally Doherty are. She is not only a gifted musician with thousands of poetical thoughts in her head, but also a great singer who makes your heart burst. Her lyrics deal with love, pain, death and desire and the voice is so sensible, erotic and tragic that there are hardly words to describe it. Sally Doherty is supported by the female quartet the Sumacs that build up a fantastic background with piano, clarinet, violin, cello and so on. 14 of 16 songs were created on song basis and the two instrumentals fit perfectly to the whole concept… and while outside the wind blows away the last leaves of the trees, while the evenings get colder and longer, this CD is like a cure for the soul… thanks Sally for your support. 10 of 10 points.”—Thomas Wacker, Black Magazin, Germany.
“Every morning I walk along an avenue bordered by trees. They are my friends and always greet me cordially. During this autumn they gradually began to shed, and, on seeing me looking sad, they dropped their pitying and compassionate leaves. They knew of my unrequited love. Meanwhile, Sally Doherty and her four nymphs entoned their romantic melodies, sweet and penetrating. The violins pierced my flesh with needles and stitched my skin with golden thread, the tambourines trembled and made my hair stand on end, the flutes and clarinets sighed like a wind around my beloved trees, already orphaned of their leaves. And the voice of Sally, which I have always loved, reached right inside my sad, tormented soul. I was especially caught unawares by a Castilian phrase pronounced in her enchanting English accent: ‘a las cinco de la tarde’. And while I was walking the memories of these months of ochre and rose twilights flowered; the night-time violins of ‘I Understand You’ transported me beneath a moon full of Segobriga , the piano of ‘Gold (Part 1)’ recalled the night of the dreams of Casa Pueblo, returned at nightfall from the castle of Gormaz with the Arabs, and the sublime finale ‘On the Outside’ evoked for me the the ending of a tale invented in the woods of Tuscany. At times resolute music is too close to oneself. Sally Doherty, a twin soul.”—Pedro Ortega, Maldoror, Spain, Canto XIII.
“Sally Doherty, known as the flute player and one of the collaborating singers of Sol Invictus, has a new album out that closes an important year for her solo career. During the recently finished year 2000, she released the haunting soundtrack of the BBC documentary ‘Empire of Death’, and a new edition of her second album, ‘Sleepy Memory’, also accompanied with the Sumacs. But, if those two albums were important, the best and more complete work to date has been undoubtedly ‘On the Outside’. This CD compiles all virtues that have made her music so brilliant and evocative through the three previous albums and all projects and bands to which she belongs or collaborates.
An intimate and mellow voice adorns compositions basically directed to a classical style, with a very peculiar capacity of keeping the listener very close to the sensations they try to transmit. The classical forms of the tracks are sometimes adorned with varied influences like North African music, with reminiscences from the soundtrack named, and also this time a few Latin elements are added. The album is a lineal and calming work of art that shows the ability of all musicians through the performance of the several instruments used. The warm presence of strings, most of the time forming a trio composed of two violins and a cello, the meditative touch of the piano, the hypnotic gifts of flute and clarinet, the different forms of percussion in the sounds of tablas, bongos or drums and, finally, it is not necessary to mention again the voice of the main protagonist. The pieces more linked to classical creations are great songs like ‘This Is What She Said’, a perfect start, followed by the blooming ‘I Understand You’ that keeps the vivid emotions by means of the violin’s beauty and the trembling cello while the piano has very sweet notes; also the strings float in tracks so nice as ‘Gold (Part 1)’; the wind section is perfectly shown in ‘Loss’, where, once again, the piece becomes a very good example of the kind of sadness appearing in most of the compositions. One of the best moments in, again, a classical vein, is ‘Silver’, together with other meditative instants brought by ‘Summer’s End’, ‘Wicker Man’ or the title track; a perfect choice to end the one hour album and a tiring day. Very good tracks are oriented to the style shown in ‘Empire of Death’: With a light touch familiar to that sound are the first moments of ‘Some Never Know’ developed later in some quite expressive string parts, but more in the path of the BBC documentary are songs like ‘Balance’, next to its mysterious atmospheres, and of course the third part of ‘One Voice’, a dark piece of evolving voice; the instrumental ‘In Spring’ is introduced and later adorned by a fine harp sound, while later on, again the wind section give a profound and meditative scenery. The sixth track of the album is named ‘Bolero’, easy to understand as the representative of that Latin touch named above, even Sally expresses with a few Spanish words in its chorus, obviously the guitar and percussion go in a close direction with one style that perfectly fits in the concept of the whole album. I recommend ‘On the Outside’ to all those close to the works of Sally Doherty, and to all those to whom her music is unknown, just give a chance to an excellent album. I know, quite far from much of the music we present in this site, but that’s also a good reason for its variety, the variety of tastes that after many years listening to music everyone needs. But, maybe, ‘On the Outside’ is not that far from the rest of the music reviewed here, yours is the decision, mine has been to give you a general view of the best album of Sally Doherty and an intelligent selection of great musicians.”—F. Paco González, Seküencias de culto webzine, Spain, March 2001.
“With her last two albums, the soundtrack to the BBC documentary ‘Empire of Death’ and the dreamy ‘Sleepy Memory’, the Sol Invictus backing vocalist Sally Doherty has long since emancipated herself as an extremely independent artist and supplements the long standing, but not always quite so gripping, World Serpent line-up of Sol Invictus, Current 93 and CTI. Sally’s new album, which she once again played with her Sumacs orchestra, again radiates that contemplative atmosphere which is naturally inherent in her fragile voice. This is even more intensified through the delicate acoustic arrangements of strings, tambourine, woodwind, tablas and guitar. Her music seems completely lost in reverie with a song like ‘One Voice’, in which she only uses her voice as a wordless instrument, and the Arabian-like atmosphere, which is brought out through the just as exotic instrumental backing. But also in general, Sally Doherty knows impressively well how to add a melancholy component to the folk of the 70s, that makes ‘On the Outside’ such an impressive work.”—Dirk Hoffman, Zillo, Germany, 2001.
“For this record with the Sumacs, Sally Doherty seems to wear the dress of a fairy with extraordinary capacity, absolutely comparable to the extra-terrestrial preciousness of another singer, Agnes Buen Garnac. ‘On the Outside’ is a great visionary journey across cultures which the English author has had in her pocket for a long time, an intimately caressed dream. The result of so much wandering means that the sound is collected in 16 beautiful songs which underline the magical touch of a very careful and gentle composer, creator of accoustic dance but also the suite of the chamber orchestra, which interweaves incredible harmonies for string instruments, brass, flutes, clarinet, harp and piano. The delicious classical aspects of the compositions don’t represent any obstacle to the sound exploration executed on this occasion. The horizons between Orient and West which appear along the path executed by the instruments are clearly visible and also Sally’s seductive voice is able to perfectly resolve the differences between the Hindu-Arabic school and the themes of Celtic-Northern European, all without a single shadow of contamination but devoted to research, wherever possible, the return to their common root. The disc shows, anyway, beautiful harmonies, diaphonous figures of uncontaminated worlds which caress your senses and bring you subtle emotions in a flow of calm chords like the smile of the aurora lighting the blue of the sky.”—Aldo Chimenti, Rockerilla, Italy, Feb 2001.
“Good music transcends time and categories. Go ask the great ones—Wagner, Berlin (Irving), Brel, Eno… the list itself goes on. Classical/Neo-classical, Jazz, Orchestral, Electronic/Techno, Computer Music, let me give you words of advice… if it fits, don’t wear it. Follow that rule and you’ll enjoy your record collection for years to come. Now I’ll hand over the podium to our next speaker. ‘On the Outside’ is the new album by Sally Doherty and the Sumacs, and if you listen to it—which you ought to—you‘ll understand the applications of the preceding paragraph. At the opening of ‘This Is What She Said’ we might be fooled into thinking this is a follow-up to ‘Sleepy Memory’ (it is‘’t; at least I don‘t think it is.) Similar piano melody, that tender, mournful voice. By the song‘s end, we get the picture—an improvisational dancing of strings and piano prove that Sally and co. are taking it a step further. It is interesting to note the shift in overall tone to a lighter, less sleepy recording; the words speak of grief, yet the music hints at a side of the band we might be seeing more of? This is especially evident of ‘Summer’s End’ and ‘Bolero’, an adaptation of a poem by Federico García Lorca. A true classic from the cult film by the same name, ‘The Wicker Man’ (‘How Do’) by P Giovanni, is perfectly rendered in all of its pagan burlesque glory. Her letting the players loose from time to time, allowing them to flex their own muscles is the biggest indication that Doherty is taking steps forward. The production values are again clearly evident as in the first Sumacs album; tasteful mixing, well-paced and even continuity shows us she knows what works. An ensemble of pretty much the same musicians shows us she knows exactly who work, as well. Tops for anyone interested in breaking free from the run-of-the-mill scenes.”—Boyd Kant, Last Sigh, USA, April 2001.
“…The music they perform resembles a sort of intimate chamber music spiced up with world music elements, which the instrumentation that combines, for instance, cello and violin with djembe and rainstick bear with witness of. The minor key but at once strangely beautiful arrangements are contrasted by Doherty’s expressive voice, which moves along the same lines as the likes of Kate Bush and Sinead O’Connor. There are definitely cinematic qualities here, and the music from Doherty’s previous—and in my opinion best—album ‘Empire of Death’ was justly used as score for a BBC documentary about the excavations of the ancient Nubic culture in Sudan.”—Propaganda, Sweden, Apr 2001.
“Following the above interview I don’t want to go on at too much length about the excellent fourth work from Ms Doherty. Yet more artistic and mature than on its predecessors, she develops her impressionistic chamber music further; classically arranged with piano, strings and flute as well as some exotic elements such as tablas and djembe, and inspired by Sally’s grandiose voice. Also to be found on ‘On the Outside’ is a text by the Spanish poet FG Lorca, which is set to music, and a cover version of ‘Willow’s Song’, that doesn’t need to fear comparison with the adaptation by Nature and Organisation, from the fantastic film ‘The Wicker Man’. The whole is rounded off by the atmospheric cover design.”—Andreas Diesel, Zinnober, Germany, Spring/Summer 2001.
“Haunting beauty. It’s music that goes deep. Sally Doherty is the vocalist accompanied by the four Sumac girls (Lizz, Liz, Karen and Emma). A lot of different instruments have been used in these recordings but the main ones are piano, cello, violin, clarinet and flute. Sally Doherty has an angelic voice that makes references to traditional and early musics. She is also somebody who continuously crosses boundaries exploring other ethnic musics. These songs combine classical, folk and world music. I don’t want to name my favourite track because I am not sure. This CD is full of electrifying, magical music that makes you shiver with joy for being part of such a rare listening experience. A CD as good as this one seldom comes along. No need to roll the dice, it’s a safe six out of six. Listen to the final track, the title track! Do I have the patience to wait for the follow up of this CD?”—Joost Hegle, Nephilius webzine, Norway, Apr 2001.
“…It could be described as acoustic music with a hint of folk, some classical, and a lot of influences from eastern cultures. Violin, piano, cello, flute and clainet are the main instruments, not to forget Sally Doherty‘s strong and beautiful voice… fans of world music will find this record very enjoyable and interesting. Sally Doherty is very talented, her voice and composing seamlessly fitting together!”—Prospective Magazine, Finland.
”To reach the deepest water of a soul it is possible with this CD. An album of real elegance, light and essential in each ethereal way. Sally and her friends offer a classical style, characterised by piano, strings, flute and fairy voice. Sally‘s voice is extremely versatile, with no difficulties can move through atmospheres of various ethnic intensity. Melancholic and soft colour, the 16 tracks of this CD follow, due to the lyrics, an oniric dimension where leaden figures sail. The author (the artist), flute and voice in Sol Invictus, shows once again her class with no doubt, offering to her public wonderful images in music, rich of persuasive details. Wings fragments through autumnal nights.” (translated from the Italian)—Twilight Zone webzine, Italy.