Now, I know from first hand experience that between twins there exists an intangible bond that is delicate as dawn and strong as steel. When such two souls engage in art, there’s an unmistakeable telepathy that streamlines the process and imbues in it a spirit of truth and irreverence. I can think of no better example than ‘Catherine‘ by The Doone Brothers. Not to wax lyrically about it; the lads clearly know how to write a tune and communicate effectively the emotions that make damn good Americana.
Hailing from the local folk veteran group No Oil Paintings, Sean and James Doone recorded and produced ‘Catherine’ (along with a pertinent and pure class cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “Brother Flower”) over lockdown, and recruited NOP bandmate George Sloan to master the cut, so the sparse mix and loyal fidelity is no surprise. How to put this…? The cumulous production is reminiscent of…y’know that unique comfort of a warm fluffy towel after running in the rain? Bliss, like.
The track is homespun in every sense of the word; the Norn accent of James’ beautiful tenor flits around Sean’s fingerpicked strings with fluency and ease. His voice and lyrics are at the heart of the song but not over or understated in the slightest. The soaring harmonies touch the familiar bittersweet heights of the best folk tunes but are anything but derivative.
I’ve avoided quoting the lyrics thus far apart from the chorus at the beginning, because you need to hear them for yourself. All you need to know is the words are as economic and devastating as John Prine’s – I can think of no higher compliment. The titular Catherine could indeed be anyone at all; someone with unmatched beauty and character who is tragically unaware of the fact.
The Doone Brothers have packed a full range of emotion into the honest and modern ‘Catherine’. It’s evidence that the tools you need to craft a perfect folk/country song have not changed: “three chords and the truth”.