MIKE DOUGHTY "Haughty Melodic" ATO

Friday, April 29, 2005

MIKE DOUGHTY"Haughty Melodic"ATO

After his stint with Soul Coughing and a five-year run of solo work, singer-songwriter Mike Doughty is back fronting a band on "Haughty Melodic," and it's a sometimes clangorous crew at that. Suffice to say you probably won't find your local barista peddling a CD sampler featuring the album's most willfully discordant and percussive track, "Busting Up a Starbucks."

Doughty is signed to Dave Matthews's label, so it isn't surprising to find the pair sharing a duet on "Tremendous Brunettes," which isn't a song so much as a piano-driven chant about life's not-so-little distractions. It makes for a chummy interlude, but Doughty is better off going it alone, whether stumbling through "junkie land" on "Sunken-Eyed Girl," or pleading for tender mercies on "White Lexus," or struggling to find his bearings on "Looking at the World From the Bottom of a Well."

Cynicism eventually gives way to faith near the close, with "His Truth Is Marching On," resembling a contemporary spiritual arranged by Tom Waits. Doughty testifies: "They say that God is great / They say that God is love and I believe them / Don't fear the random fate / I trust the hand of the Almighty and the infinite."

Now and then, Doughty's lyrics fall far short of his best work -- "Your Misfortune," for example, is yet another "Bridge Over Troubled Water"-like ballad. But more often his songcraft and soulful voice -- plus some shrewdly tailored arrangements -- make for a potent alt-rock combination.

-- Mike Joyce

Appearing Wednesday at the Black Cat. ยท To hear a free Sound Bite from Mike Doughty, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 and press 8128. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)

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