Though having only relatively recently been properly introduced to the wonderful and talented Mike Doughty there already exists a real excitement when anything appears from the man. A few weeks ago we had his excellent new album Yes And Also Yes swiftly followed by his biography The Book of Drugs, both outstanding slices of openness and inventive expression. The life and honesty of Doughty is the breath which fuels all his work and is in full flow with this now available new release The Question Jar Show, an album to further leave the heart and ear blissfully contented. It is a real treat and joy cementing Doughty as one of the most thrilling and charismatic artists in music today whilst making for the most enjoyable hour and a half you can wish for.
The release is a double cd album consisting of tracks collected from his The Question Jar Show of 2009/10. With its unusual and intimate set up the tour was and album is much more than simply a live recording. The Question Jar Show consists of just Doughty and the excellent bassist/cellist Andrew “Scrap” Livingston bringing stripped down but lively and vibrant versions of his songs. As the title suggests there is also a question and answer session interspersed between the music, though really it is just the most hilarious and entertaining chance to see the witness the charm and irrepressible humour of Doughty. Before each show on the tour the audience was invited to submit questions which were placed in a jar and introduced throughout the performances. With the obvious chemistry between Doughty and Livingston musically and as friends ignited by what are unpredictable, hilarious and generally crazed questions the result is a show with a warmth and intimacy which gives as much fun and pleasure to listen to as was obviously felt by those actually there. The type of questions asked included such gems as “Would you rather trip an old lady or kick a puppy?” and “Would you rather be stuck in a tank with a thousand tarantulas or Howie Mandel?”, so you get the flavour of what came up for Doughty to feast upon with great wit and eagerness.
Musically the album leaves one basking in superior songwriting brought down to its raw but essential heart. The twin attack of the guitar of Doughty and the cello of Livingston is a fresh and stirring mix bringing flavoursome emotive teases and perfect rough caresses for the ear which brings only deep satisfaction. The few songs where Doughty goes alone are just as equally irresistible but there is something about the pair together which carries a deeper hypnotic grasp.
The wealth of great songs include the likes of (I Keep On) Rising Up, Like a Luminous Girl, and Madeline and Nine, all treating the senses to fine invention and the consistently engaging and mesmeric lyrics of Doughty. There is not one weakness within the performance its feel and heart organic and wonderfully relaxed. The biggest highlights come in the shape of Looking at the World from the Bottom Of A Well, Busting Up a Starbucks, and Navigating by the Stars at Night. To be fair though choosing any track over another is impossible with the likes of Down on the River by the Sugar Plant and (I Want to) Burn You (Down) as irresistible and impressive as those mentioned and the other s left to your discovery.
The Question Jar Show is simply fantastic and its body so absorbing and infectious one could listen for 4 hours plus and it would still finish too soon. Mike Doughty is one of the few artists which can truly brew an immense enthusiasm and excitement for his work from just being himself creatively and personally. There is no pretence or flattery involved with his music or his live performances as this great album proves. He is always just himself and quite simply ensures it is the best time had and spent in his company whichever way he pleasures the heart.