It's been five years since the demise of Soul Coughing, and up to this point, Mike Doughty's solo releases have been solo in the truest sense of the word: He is literally the only musician present. Haughty Melodic is Doughty's first solo release to feature a band, making comparisons to his old band inevitable, but this really is a different beast. He's still an excellent wordsmith, and still favors acoustic bass and taut drums. His delivery is pretty much the same, but with a bit more emphasis on singing and melody. The big differences are that guitars are much more prominent than on any Soul Coughing releases, the lyrics have a more personal perspective, and the additional sounds of the album come from warmer sources like piano, Fender Rhodes and horns rather than a sampler. Several of the songs originally appeared on the live Smofe + Smang album, but those versions were quite sparse: just voice and acoustic guitar. Here, they get the full rock treatment. The sound can still be fairly thick, like on "Looking at the World From the Bottom of a Well" and "I Hear the Bells," but the acoustic guitar, piano and pedal steel of "White Lexus" are a far cry from anything Soul Coughing released. There are still some strange sonics, like at the end of "Busting Up a Starbucks," but the overall sound is very organic with many acoustic elements. Doughty's solo work shows an interesting development. Even with his rather drastic switch from hip-hop hipster beatnik to acoustic solo troubadour, Doughty retained a large part of his original fan base. Those folks will surely be pleased with Haughty Melodic, but even the people who didn't take to Doughty's solo career immediately owe it to themselves to check this one out.
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AllMusic Review by Sean Westergaard
feat: Dave Matthews