You might know Mike Doughty as "the guy from Soul Coughing." Or, if you're like Mike Doughty (and me), you might know Soul Coughing as the band that Mike Doughty was in before he became Mike Doughty.
Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Soul Coughing. Their first album, Ruby Vroom, changed the way I listen to music. Take a slam poet, a sampler, an upright bass and a random crate of vinyl and throw them in a washing machine. Set the switches for heavy soil and hot rinse. Kick one of the legs out from under the machine and press start. When the door finally flies off, and it will, what spills out all over your floor is Ruby Vroom.
That album came out in 1994 which was a big one in music: Pavement and Green Day and Cake were born. Nirvana died. Nine Inch Nails, Soundgarden, Aphex Twin, and Biggie released massive albums. Things were changing and, to me, Soul Coughing was a huge part of it.
Mike Doughty was the band's singer and main songwriter. I was, and still am, a big fan of Soul Coughing. Mike Doughty, however, is not. He and I will have to disagree on that point. But put aside the sample-heavy sonics for a minute (which he was never on board with). Mike was still dropping lines this:
"Brooklyn like a sea in the asphalt stalks
Push out dead air from a parking garage
Where you stand with the keys and your cool hat of silence
Where you grip her love like a driver's license"
He writes awesome, awesome lyrics. Which brings us to Mike Doughty the solo artist. After the band exploded in 2000 (acrimony, drugs, etc.), Mike was dropped by the record label and he toured the country in a rental car with an acoustic guitar, selling CD-R copies of his first solo album Skittish. Eventually Dave Matthews signed him to his ATO label and released Haughy Melodic which is a wonderful record. Overall, Mike's released 17 solo studio albums, live albums, and EPs since 2000. He also wrote a memoir called The Book of Drugs about the years he spent under the influence of drugs and Soul Coughing, as well as the years he spent recovering from both.
His solo works features same killer lyrics I've come to love, but they're center stage now. His vocals, which have a piercing quality anyway, are up top in the mix: often syncopated and skittering. For songs that are mostly built around an acoustic guitar, he manages to pack plenty of funk in the trunk.
He's lived a rough life, Mike has. But he came out the other side with these wonderful songs. Here are five to get you started: