Mike Doughty Brings Back the Groove

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"I just keep notebooks and when it's time to put some songs together, I go to those and pick out phrases here and there and plug them in where needed."


 

Golden Delicious (ATO), the latest release from former Soul Coughing front-man turned solo artist Mike Doughty is just as enticing as its name; full of a richer, more dance-trance sound than his first full-length effort, Haughty Melodic, which included the more mainstream pop hits, "Looking at the World From the Bottom of a Well" and "I Hear the Bells." Both singles gained tremendous popularity after being featured on several TV shows including Grey's Anatomy, Bones, and Veronica Mars. The 11 songs on Golden Delicious serve up a groovier mix, reminiscent of some of Doughty's best work with Soul Coughing and early in his solo career.

"I went in to this recording wanting to play to the strengths of John Kirby, my keyboard player and Pete McNeil, my drummer, which just naturally makes for a jammier, dancier kind of sound," Doughty says.

Golden Delicious includes an updated version of the catchy tune, "27 Jennifers," from Doughty's 2003 EP Rockity Roll, that sounds like a hit single and has received moderate radio airplay; but some of the best gems on the album are the songs that are a bit more eclectic and groovier, including "Put it Down," "More Bacon than the Pan Can Handle," and "Navigating by the Stars at Night." 

A thoughtful and skilled lyricist, Doughty keeps his writing flowing by blogging regularly on his web site about music, pop culture and politics, and even published a book of poetry in 2003. Regarding his songwriting process, Doughty says, "I just keep notebooks and when it's time to put some songs together, I go to those and pick out phrases here and there and plug them in where needed."

The first cut on Golden Delicious is an anti-war song titled "Ft. Hood," named for the base in Texas that has lost the most soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. The song grew out of a visit Doughty paid to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he witnessed soldiers with missing limbs and serious psychological damage. Growing up an army brat on bases around the country, the faces he saw were familiar ones.

"When I was a kid in the 70s and 80s, there were just a lot of guys that had come back from Vietnam damaged - not physically necessarily, but their psyches were still bearing the weight of whatever they saw there," he says. "When I see guys in the airport coming back from Iraq, headed home on leave, I just think, ‘What's going on in their heads? What's it going to take to get it out of their heads?' Growing up I saw what war does to people emotionally. I haven't been to war, but I've definitely seen some post traumatic stress."

Doughty makes his point through lyrics like, "I smell blood and there's no blood around/The blanked out eyes and the blanked out sound/I see them coming back; they're motionless in an airport lounge" partnered with the uplifting and hopeful "Let the sun shine in" chorus, a Vietnam-protest song borrowed from the 1968 Broadway musical Hair.

As for the current presidential candidates, Doughty says, "I don't have a preference yet, I'd be very happy with Hilary or Obama."

Doughty is currently touring in support of Golden Delicious, making a stop in St. Louis at The Gargoyle on Wash U's campus on Thursday, March 27. Joining him will be his band, including drummer Pete McNeil, bassist Andrew Livingston and electric pianist John Kirby, who Doughty describes as a "young genius." Opening will be Doughty's latest discovery, a band called The Panderers (he just signed them to his new micro-label, Snack Bar) who he says sound like "Quentin Tarantino at a hoedown."

One thing is for certain, Doughty and his band are sure to get the college crowd at Wash U revved up and dancing. It will be a sweaty night at The Gargoyle. | Amy Burger

Mike Doughty's Band w/ The Panderers
Thursday, March 7

The Gargoyle at Washington University St. Louis
WU: FREE  
Public: $15 (must be 18+ to enter)
Tickets will on sale at Edison Box Office or through Metrotix

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