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CD Review: Mike Doughty – Haughty Melodic

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I remember when I first heard Soul Coughing so many years ago, I was struck by the original songwriting, the unique instrument orchestrations, the fun lyrics, and the voice of Mike Doughty. After a while I lost track of them when they broke up, which I didn’t know for years. I was reintroduced to the songwriting prowess of a one Mike Doughty last year when I reviewed the reissue Skittish/Rockity Roll.

Now in 2005, he has signed with Dave Mathews record label and released his first fully produced solo album. In my opinion he is an artist who does not get as much recognition as he deserves. Every song on the album is a winner. Even my Mother has become a fan, and she is very picky about what she lets pass her ears, she recently heard “Looking at the World from the Bottom of a Well” while shopping at a local bookstore, it inspired her to ask the clerk what was playing. She remembered the name, as I had mentioned it at home and asked to borrow the album, I’m still waiting to get it back.

The music is still reminiscent of his Soul Coughing days, but the songs have a much more straight forward drive to them. Filled with off kilter lyrics, acoustic guitar, and rhythms that just get in your head a stick there, this album is a triumph. This is his most accomplished work since Soul Coughing, and while it has that distinctive sound to it, it stands on it’s own, completely apart from those recordings. This is also a step up from his earlier solo work, for the first time he has a full band to work with.

I have likened Mike to the late Warren Zevon. No, they don’t sound anything like the other, but their are similarities between the work they have produced. They both possess voices that are the opposite of what the growing American Idol mentality expects, their voices are emotive and passionate, yet do not have much of a range and still convey so much more feeling and emotion than those Idol singers could ever hope to accomplish. But I digress, back to Doughty and Zevon. They both write and perform their own material. They both can deliver heartfelt lyrics, as well as relate quirky lines that infiltrate their work.

It is hard to pick out the highlights of the album as all of the songs soar in their own rights. If forced to, I think I would have to go with the previously mentioned “Looking at the World from the Bottom of a Well” as my favorite song from the album. Other strengths include “Busting up a Starbucks,” and “Tremendous Brunettes.”

The album hits a groove and it is very easy to sit back and just listen to the album straight through. You will find yourself tapping your foot to the rhythm, or catch yourself singing along with certain portions. Alternately melancholy and buoyant, this album puts great songwriting on display.

Bottomline. This probably one of the best albums that I have had the opportunity to listen to this year. Mike Doughty is one of the best songwriters working today. This album is a testament to the art of songwriting. On top of that it doesn’t take itself so seriously that it forgets to have fun with the medium. Mixed with the melancholic is a playful attitude that is clearly enjoying what he is doing. It shows. Excellent album.

Highly Recommended.

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  • DJ

    Since Soul Coughing broke up I lost track and missed the unique sound and lyrics M. Doughty delivers.

    Doughty falls into that category-less group of singers such as David Eugene Edwards of 16 Horsepower with a melodic and captivating delivery of his songs.

    I’m glad to see he’s back but would it kill him to play a few more cities. I’ve seen Soul Coughing sell out 10,000 seat theaters in Minneapolis yet he isn’t even playing Chicago on his current mix of tour dates.

  • http://www.paintthecity.blogs.com Sarah Mankowski

    Just heard Mike Doughty on a road trip and liked it, especially the live tracks. He’s coming to the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee, and I might just check it out. Feel free to check out my blog on the A&E scene in Milwaukee at http://www.paintthetown.blogs.com

  • John Joseph

    I had never heard of Mike Doughty before catching him at the Fox Theatre in Boulder, Colorado a couple weeks ago when he opened for David Gray. I walked away from my evening at the Fox with Mike’s songs in my head, and feeling let down by David Gray’s predictably hip, nearly studio-like performance.
    Doughty’s lyrics are gutsy, poetic and immediate. His raspy voice is reminiscent of working class hero Bruce Springsteen,Dave Matthews (no coincidence that they share the same record label)and Pete Yorn. At the concert, I heard some dudes saying after the show, “Wow, that was inspired.” I downloaded “Haughty Melodic” on I-Tunes and play it every day.
    Mike made some comment at the end of the show that “he was back” after a long struggle. I wish him well in his ascent to recognition if not stardom in the folk/rock/singer-songwriter world.
    His band is as real and visceral as he is – the live performance is even better than the album, as the band isn’t afraid to bust into rock your socks off improvs. I’ll be at the next concert!

  • http://www.080674.com/blog brent c. airey

    i loved soul coughing in a huge way, i still get sad they split. not wanting to draw comparison doughty’s solo stuff is fantastic, it’s a shame he is so overlooked. yep, his vocal range drags you back to the S.C. days but it’s certainly a sideways evolution rather than simply a coat-tails affair. his music is particularly hard to get here in australia and will probably remain so until we (if ever) get an iTunes store.

  • rob

    I have seen mike and the band twice in two weeks and was blown away at how close i was able to get to this guy. I mean talk about humble , he graciously stayed back to sign and hang out with all thirty of the lucky bastards who took advantage of a great opportunity to see him. Here I am with my pregnant wife at a shoe way the hell out on the eastern fork of long island to see these guys, they not only signed the set list but i think may have even recognized us from the previous show asking how my wife was cominalong. Anyway if you are smart you will catch these guys while youcan still see them up close, Truly music for musicians!!!!!!!