Mike Doughty | The Question Jar (Snack Bar/Megaforce)

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cd Mike-DoughtyWhile it may be easy to toss aside an album upon hearing that it’s “just some guy playing an acoustic guitar,” this is Mike Doughty.

 

 

Imagine your dream dinner party: an intimate gathering with your friends, including your most whimsical and interesting friend. Mike Doughty is that eccentric friend. On his latest solo release, The Question Jar, Doughty recounts his captivating stories with honesty and delivers them with genuine modesty. While it may be easy to toss aside an album upon hearing that it’s “just some guy playing an acoustic guitar,” this is Mike Doughty. The artist has a fabled history full of almost mythical experiences, and hasn’t been shy about his history with drug use and the dislike of his former band Soul Coughing. What sets Doughty apart from the typical one-man solo act or conventional run-of-the-mill (read: predictable) singer-songwriter, however, is the soul that drips in to every note he sings and every chord he strums. The Question Jar Show is exactly that dream dinner party with the added bonus of Doughty performing. The double-disc release features a slew of hits recognizable to the new Doughty devotee as well as a few gems to please the Doughty faithful.

In 2009, Doughty went on tour with his incredibly skilled (and equally funny) partner-in-crime, cellist Andrew “Scrap” Livingston. Fans who attended the various Question Jar shows at which these songs and interludes were recorded participated by more than just clapping at the end of songs; questions ranging from the genuinely curious to the asinine (and the always dependable “Would you rather…” scenarios) were scribbled on paper by audience members, read aloud, and answered between songs by Livingston and Doughty. Every answer given by Doughty is wrought with authenticity and creates a warm illusion of intimacy, as though your awesome eccentric friend is sitting on the couch next to you.

The Question Jar Show opens with perhaps his most well-known single, “Looking at the World from the Bottom of a Well,” confirming from the start that this album is packed full of solid instrumentation and near-flawless lyrics. Scrap provides a unique take on the traditional rhythm section, employing his stellar cello (and, at times, electric guitar) skills to act as both drums and bass to round out the stripped-down Doughty favorites. Songs like “(I Keep on) Rising Up,” “Ossining,” and “Madeline and Nine” are exquisite in The Question Jar Show setting and profoundly benefit from the simple arrangements. Other songs, like “(You Should Be) Doubly Gratified” and “Navigating by the Stars at Night” are sure to be stuck in your head for days, while the haunting “Down on the River by the Sugar Plant” will creep in to your dreams and innermost thoughts.

The first disc on this double-CD set features a more jovial side to Doughty, while the second disc explores a more harrowing facet behind the soulful artist. The dichotomy of hope and despair is certainly not new to anyone (especially not to the man who released an album aptly titled Sad Man, Happy Man); however, the contrast of light and dark represented in these albums are what make The Question Jar Show such a joy to listen to. This album is the perfect Mike Doughty anthology for people who don’t yet listen to him, and is that much sweeter for the Doughty elite. B | Jenn Metzler

P.S. Mike: When that cheeky audience member asked if you could name 27 Jennifers, first and last name, I was hoping you’d say my name. You have a new diehard fan. And upon repeated listens, I’m still hoping you’ll slip my name in the next time you are asked.

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