From the first downbeat of a Mike Doughty , you know you’re in for something crafty and powerful and maybe a little strange. He’s a flawless modern craftsman, and that encourages a listener to embrace his nonconformity and trust that they are in safe hands. That he builds his songs using polar opposites (complicated but simple, quiet yet loud) eventually goes unnoticed, and by the end of a record, or a performance, it feels as if you’ve shared something incisive and personal. I got the notion Doughty and I could be soul brothers after I listened to “27 Jennifers” — “You might be the strange delightful,” he sings, “You might be the girlie who shall end all girls/ You might be the sweet unspiteful.” Damn, I thought. He’s writing about a Jennifer that I too had once known and craved.
Mike Doughty lives in Brooklyn. In the late 1990s he had a band called Soul Coughing. They were hard to nail down; I never have quite figured out what to call their music. I just knew that I dug it for its unexpected funky coolness. Commercially, Soul Coughing appealed to the hip underground in New York where they were home-based, and Doughty as front man was caught somewhere between beat poet and rapper. When Soul Coughing ended, Doughty was hooked on drugs. He cleaned up and later hit the road as a solo artist, and fans of his previous band came out to see Doughty and buy his first solo CD.
Doughty had more good fortune when a fan named Dave Matthews signed him to his label and eventually re-released Doughty’s entire catalog of solo recordings. Doughty writes on his MySpace page that there is no tour band this time around. Instead he’ll be performing in a duo with his friend, cellist Andrew Livingston.
MIKE DOUGHTY: Casbah, Friday, May 1, 6:30 p.m. 619-232-4355. $16; $18 day of show.