Postcards From Jeff – Modern Language

Postcards from Jeff _RingMaster Review

Modern Language is the name of the new single and album from UK artist Postcards from Jeff, and both propositions which capture the imagination in a mix of dusty Americana, alternative rock intimacy, and dreamily emotive atmospheres with cinematic landscapes. Killing two birds with one stone, we are taking a look at the ten-track full-length, a serenade of reflective charm and melancholic isolation which takes the listener into the heart of relatively undisturbed scenery as calm and rich in beauty as it is loneliness.

Postcards From Jeff is rural Yorkshire hailing, Manchester based Joss Worthington, the band a project living and breathing between the artist’s work in the studio producing for other artists. Last year Worthington released Postcards From Jeff’s self-titled debut EP, it and the pair of award winning filmmaker Steve Glashier directed videos it spawned, sparking potent attention towards the band. With the single Suburban Girl already successfully making its mark on 2015, and another trio of videos, again with Glashier at the helm, to accompany the album, Modern Language brings a fresh and alluring escapism for ears, imagination, and most likely the artist himself from the mundane of every day.

Postcards from Jeff - Modern Language _RingMaster Reviewart   That previous single opens up the album, Suburban Girl quickly engaging ears and appetite with its caress of eighties bred melodies and keys honed tempting. Soon joined by the plainer but no less persuasive vocal tones of Worthington, the song wraps around and tenderly engulfs ears and attention with its warm catchiness and emotive substance. Guest drums appear courtesy of Chris Smith, his rapier like beats an organic prompt within the flowing charm of the song where not for the last time on the album, musically the song invites thoughts of bands like China Crisis and The Bluebells whilst the songwriting and rich layer of hooks and melodies within the track have an Ian Broudie like feel, essences which only add to the captivation of song and release.

The following Japanese Man O’ War is similarly infectious and gently energetic, additional vocals from Clare Stagg adding to the provocative warmth soaking the rhythmic drama crafted by Smith. Worthington’s keys provide an emotive narrative which is a worldly as it is personal within a song simultaneously projecting out of the way life and cosmopolitan business in the imagination before making way for the fuzz dreamscape of A House. With electronic beats almost primal in their organic presence, the track is a sonic soundtrack to a sepia clad outlook with tantalising glides through shimmering radiance triggered by provocative keys. More of a smoulder initially compared to its predecessors, ears and thoughts are nevertheless firmly and eagerly involved.

The country scent of Tired Wings brings a clearer, less fuzzy ambience with it which accentuates the tang of the guitar and the inviting rumbles of rhythms. Stagg also returns to kiss the senses with her reserved yet siren-esque harmonies, the combination a glow within the romancing, very slightly Smiths like, body of the song. It is a masterful tempting swiftly backed by the same potency of Goddess Of The Sun, its enterprise as resourceful and adventurous as its voice is sublimely persuasive.

New single Modern Language comes next spreading an oriental/worldly flirtation from its first touch on ears. Keys again conjure a hug of multi-cultural reflection whilst the Mike Doughty like texture of Worthington’s vocals provide a great grounding to the melodic flight leading the imagination and emotions into bold and insular adventures. The song is spellbinding, simply a fascinating and infectious doorway into the craft and world of Postcards From Jeff.

Both Samaritans and Wide Eyed Wonder keep satisfaction rich, the first with its enthralling Lightning Seeds like melody fuelled ambience around punchy rhythms and spicy hooks and its successor through a more of a low key but no less hook stocked tempting. The second of the two misses the spark of the first but is still only pleasing and the same can be said of Lay Low, a croon which gets under the skin emotionally and atmospherically but fails to whip up personal tastes in the same way as those before it.

Modern Language comes to a close with Awake, a pulsating dance of crystalline keys and shadowy rhythms infesting feet and ears with relaxed zeal against the contrast of the plainer dustier delivery of Worthington’s vocals. There is also an undefined familiarity to the track which adds to the pleasure and brings the album to a potent conclusion.

Postcards From Jeff creates songs which manage to be as visual for the imagination as they are vibrant for the ears, the band name itself the perfect representative to the emotional travelogue of the songwriting and indeed Modern Language.

Modern Language is released on October 23rd.

https://www.facebook.com/postcardsfromjeff    https://twitter.com/postcardsfromj   http://www.postcardsfromjeff.com/

Pete Ringmaster 21/0/2015

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Mike Doughty – Circles Super Bon Bon Sleepless How Many Cans? True Dreams of Wichita Monster Man Mr. Bitterness Maybe I’ll Come Down St. Louise Is Listening I Miss the Girl Unmarked Helicopters The Idiot Kings So Far I Have Not Found the Science

pic: ericmpearson

pic: ericmpearson

It is well documented and proclaimed by Mike Doughty himself that Soul Coughing was one of the darkest and painful periods in his life, one which has been an ‘out of bounds’ subject musically really ever since his departure from the band at the start of this century and becoming clean from the drugs which stalked that time. The publishing of his The Book of Drugs earlier this year saw Doughty address that darkness but in many ways the fact he has gone on further to look back and revisit Soul Coughing songs for his new album is a striking surprise. In many ways book and new album Circles Super Bon Bon Sleepless How Many Cans? True Dreams of Wichita Monster Man Mr. Bitterness Maybe I’ll Come Down St. Louise Is Listening I Miss the Girl Unmarked Helicopters The Idiot Kings So Far I Have Not Found the Science, a title made up by listing all the song titles within it, is a ‘cleansing’ of the shadows and demons bred in that moment of his life. Revisiting and re-interpreting some of his favourite songs, his intent he states of wanting “to separate the songs — not the recordings, but the songs — from the darkness” and “wanting to figure out what I meant, who I was, where I was when I wrote the songs “, Doughty has created an album of classic tracks stripped and in most cases given a new irresistible aspect in which Soul Coughing fans and those new to the man will eagerly devour.

Admittedly our introduction to Mike Doughty came post Soul Coughing, awareness of the band solid but direct knowledge of their sounds restricted to two or three well-trodden songs recognition wise. This made Circles Super Bon Bon… an album which is more than a re-interpretation for our imagination, a release which for its majority is a uniquely new endeavour to contemplate. This is a plus in many ways though it means any comparison between the originals and what Doughty originally visualised and is explored by him now is for a future discussion. From those which can be compared, Doughty has thinned them down yet built them up with a funk bred energy and a lighter vitality; it is a touch which works a treat though arguably relinquishes some of the potency of the dark spawned lyrics and their provocative impact. The PledgeMusic financed album is an enthralling and invigorating encounter all the same, one which bridges Doughty’s recent solo exploration and Soul Coughing whilst showing the distinct differences.

The album opens with Sleepless, an evocative gentle caress of keys teasing the ear as electronic beats build a cage for music and 539618_10152183023660200_1861384510_nthe unique tones of Doughty to court and at times prowl. The song walks with intent and a slim intensity but one which still offers a shadowed intrigue clad clime around which a reserved yet eager funk seeded swagger adds its adventure. It is an absorbing clarified and tantalising persuasion which ignites a sturdy appetite in those new to the songs and those one suspects well acquainted with the tracks.

Both How Many Cans? and True Dreams of Wichita place a contagious grip upon the senses and emotions, the first with a pulsating lure aligned to another funk kissed dance. Keys and especially the excellent emotive dark tones of the upright bass of Catherine Popper, who stirs up a mystique and compelling resonance across the whole release, enslave the imagination whilst the rhythms with a near metronomic tempting drive the track perfectly. To be honest the drum programming is the one limiting and less successful element of the album, though not enough to make any ruinous contribution as shown here but for personal preferences a live percussionist at least would have added even greater depth to the invention. The second of the pair instantly seduces with the bass again a temptress which cannot be denied from its opening breath whilst Doughty with his eager croon pulls the song into a keen and enthusiastic stroll which is pure infection. Samples also make their small stabs throughout to add further unpredictability to a song which revitalises and improves strikingly on the original.

Super Bon Bon is one of the loftiest pinnacles on the album, the addiction sparking low key magnetic stomp fusing jazz blazes and funk romping to a kinetic compulsion which hot steps across the senses for the fullest temptation. Its might is not quite matched but impressively supported by the likes of the soul flamed Mr. Bitterness, the almost bedlamic virulently contagious Monster Man, and the melancholic beauty that is Maybe I’ll Come Down, a darkly hued enticement which seduces from first note to last. To be fair every song upon Circles Super Bon Bon… is a masterful reflection and unleashing of what Doughty intended initially for the songs, some with more potency and temptation than others as shown by the excellent sinewed stomp of Unmarked Helicopters and the evolving electronic frenzy of So Far I Have Not Found the Science, both two more passion igniting enterprises.

Circles is another track which is more dramatic in its new vision whilst retaining the essence which made it an insatiable tempter of hearts. Losing its discord lilt for a sturdier folk voice but still retaining the hypnotic impossibly addictive bait of the original, the track is a major triumph and opening into the original intent of Doughty. In this instance being able to make the comparison to the first version, a track which has gripped our psyche from its first unveiling, the impression of the dark clouds around him and song back then is pronounced, though you always have to bear in mind the input and creative design of the rest of the band in the creation of the songs which purposely impacted on its shadows too.

Completed by the radiant yet raw shine of St. Louise Is Listening, the album is a captivating insight and though for personal tastes Doughty has achieved greater potency with his recent solo releases, the Good Goose produced Circles Super Bon Bon… makes for one intriguing and with some real gems within it, thoroughly satisfying release.

http://www.mikedoughty.com/

8.5/10

RingMaster 25/11/2013

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Mike Tyler – Money Grows on Your Knees

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    Money Grows On Your Knees the new single from poet and musician Mike Tyler is a deceptive little tease, a song which left indecision during certainly its first and even second excursion through the ear  but all the while was working away and laying a hook which emerged again and again well away from its source. It is an addictive little creature which though still coated in a less than stable opinion is like a tic which is almost impossible to remove from thoughts and imagination.

Taken from his well-received album Erection of last year, the first thing to note and praise about the release is its packaging. Coming in a 7” green vinyl/CD bundle with a sleeve design complete with jigsaw front and lyric sheet back, the single takes one right back to the late seventies/early eighties when sleeve design and imagination was as rife and vibrant as the sounds they enclosed. It is an instant clutch of strong points on the board for The Art Can Not Be Damaged released single. It is also very apt for the artist from New York. Mentored in a bar by the poet Delmore Schwartz, Patti Smith, and Tom Verlaine of Television, Tyler has sculpted interest, respect, and inspiration with his words within others. World famous graffiti-smith Banksy stencilled his words “only the ridiculous survive” outside Paddington Station in London whilst Beck also was inspired by his charismatic pull when honing his song writing craft. Tyler became known as The Most Dangerous Poet in America after breaking his arm during a reading, and his poem The Most Beautiful Word in the American Language has found its place on the blogs, MySpace pages, and Facebook walls of a great many, not to mention fridge doors. He is a puzzle in many ways, an intricate confusion which the packaging of the single perfectly hints to and to further give relevance of the artwork the artist talks about his single by saying “My new single is such a lopsided seductive beast. Deep deep bass with a pop frosting and a growling lead yawp. It can be kind of sweet in places and then a dungeon-door-slamming-echoed-thud takes over; a contradiction in tones. It’s the boiled pot of the gumbo stew of black and white that is America; greed and innocence, joy and exhausted hustle. Might explain why we decided the packaging of the single would include an actual puzzle.

Money Grows on Your Knees instantly punches the air with heavy pressing beats soon joined by great expressive keys and the straight face vocals of Tyler. He is not a natural vocalist, his spoken word delivery a dulled edge to the vibrancy of the music but it soon persuades the longer the track plays with the ear. The persistence of the rhythmic seduction and equally tempting bass is near irresistible whilst the keys craft a warm engagement which holds the hand as the songs opens up its summer framed by additional vocals from a sirenesque female voice and singing from Tyler both standing behind his core gait of delivery. As one would expect the lyrics make you think without needing to spend over time evaluating their coaxing narrative whilst the brassy bellows of the synths are like small fanfares in the sultriness of the song’s skies. An encounter easily described as Jonathan Richman meets Jona Lewie whilst John Otway and Mike Doughty add their support, it has proved its dangerous contagiousness as whilst writing the review up to this point and listening to its throughout,  Money Grows on Your Knees has provided  a conclusive argument and won its case…or maybe just worn down the defences, whichever it is a devious little treat.

Accompanying the song on the single is Corny Song, a new track from Tyler. Energetic and mischievous the song was inspired by a show in the UK where he was promoting the Erection album. It like the first is not an instant draw and has yet to convince but again it lingers and teases long past its expiry time.

For quirky, unpolished, and honest indie/pop devilment the single is well worth a fun filled amble with, but be warned it will not be leaving you alone from that point on.

http://www.cutepoet.com/

7/10

RingMaster 23/04/2013

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Arranging the alternative: an interview with Mike Doughty

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Never reluctant to keep us guessing, intrigued, and thrilled by his consistently inventive creativity and releases, Mike Doughty recently gave the world his new album The Flip Is Another Honey. The release was an enthralling collection of covers given the unique imagination and vision of the Brooklyn singer songwriter, songs teased and seduced into little irresistible jewels crafted with mischief, invention, and inspired vision. The release of the album gave us a great opportunity to talk with Mike again and find out the inspiration and heart to The Flip Is Another Honey and more…

Hi Mike and welcome back to The Ringmaster Review.

Before we move on to your new album it seems you have been very busy since we last talked to you around the release of Yes And Also Yes. Are you a man who has to be creatively active or are you able to find down time in that respect to re-energise the artistic batteries?

I guess I don’t really do down time, artistically. I’m always working on something, even when I’m not working on something. When I’m on vacation, I relish journaling in an unusual place, and when I wander around, half my mind is on what I’m going to write about what I see.

You have just released the wonderful album The Flip Is Another Honey. I read you got the great title from an old Variety review in 1956 of the Jerry Lee Lewis single Crazy Arms. How did you come across this and how does it relate to the contents of your album?

The review was quoted in Nick Tosches’ “Hellfire”, which is a biography of Jerry Lee. Great book. The phrase basically means, “the B-side of this single is also really good.” I don’t know if I had a logical reason for picking the title–just an intuitive one.

Are the tracks you cover on The Flip Is Another Honey ones you grew up with, ones which inspired you at certain times, songs 487617_10151459081085200_1323909964_nwhich inspired ideas just for the release, or a mix of all?

They’re songs I’d been playing by myself in the green room, before and after shows. Some of them, improbably, sounded good in my voice-those are the ones I recorded. There are plenty songs I love to sing that sound shitty in my particular style, (and, on the ones that I sounded good in, I often had to omit or duck a high note in there someplace).

I learned “Country Roads” to impress my girlfriend, who’s from West Virginia (and, apropos of nothing here, has a giant tattoo of the cover of “Trout Mask Replica” on her ribcage.)

How long has the album been in the making from the first seeds of the idea and how long did the actual physical recording take?

It was quick. I had the tunes selected when I hired Kevin Salem to produce–we set a date six weeks later, I programmed and arranged the songs, and then I came up to Woodstock to lay it down. It took–four days? I think. Maybe five.

How easy or difficult was it to settle on the chosen 15 on the album?

I do my best to make those kinds of choices quickly, and intuitively, without a lot of psychic self-torture. So, easy.

Apart from three tracks with your long time collaborators pianist Dan Chen and cellist Andrew “Scrap” Livingston, you played every sound on the release. Does that also apply to the ideas and way you approached each song or did you engage thoughts of others on those?

I like to coax something unique out of the people I’m working with, rather than dictate. The people I play with are adept at jumping into a song with very general directions from me, and able to bring their full selves into the instrumental parts they create.

Obviously, I wrote all the parts on the album, but I also worked with Kevin, the producer, as I’d work with a musician–I tried his suggestions, like, “Why don’t you phrase the vocal like such-and-such?” Along those lines.

As much as I would love to ask questions about every track on The Flip Is Another Honey, we will look at the songs which lit the biggest fires inside if that is ok.

OK!

Firstly can I ask about your version of Take Me Home, Country Roads, a song I will admit I have never taken too and as good as your take on it is I am still not convinced but that is personal taste only ha ha. You brought the wonderful voice of Rosanne Cash into the song with you, how much persuasion did she need if any to lend her vocal charms to the song?

Virtually no persuasion. Super bizarrely, she’s a big fan of mine.

The album opens with the excellent Sunshine where you sample John Denver’s vocals to merge with your rapping. Where did the idea to approach it this way get its inspiration and when gaining permission from the John Denver estate for the use of the Denver sample did they have any inkling of how you would wonderfully interpret the song?

Often times, when listening to songs, I’ll pick out sample-able parts–it’s kind of a tic. I guess I just was listening to it on my headphones on the subway, and suddenly I heard the sample.

I was terrified that the John Denver estate would be super affronted that I’d messed around with their dude so oddly–I sent them the completed track–and I was thinking of other singers to do the part when they wrote back to say they were ultra-enthused about it. Weirdly. So great.

Mike DoughtyThe song is a major highlight on the album for us; did the track emerge on the finished record as you initially envisaged it when coming up with the idea?

Oh yeah. Being based around samples, there were fewer variables

Tell us about the two Cheap Trick covers Southern Girls and Reach Out. There is a passion in the tracks which suggests maybe this band had a big impact on you and your heart. 

Yes yes. Actually, when I was 13, I waited outside Eisenhower Hall in West Point, NY, to meet them. I asked Rick Nielsen to play “Reach Out”, and he was totally confused by that. I guess it was a song they threw onto the soundtrack of the animated movie “Heavy Metal” (super corny and great 80s sci-fi), and didn’t think much about. It was written by the bass player who filled in for Tom Petersson, when he was absent for a couple of years–maybe that indicated an also-ran-ness. But I loved it.

Reach Out merges seamlessly into the Josh Wink anthem Higher State of Consciousness. What sparked the allying of the two songs in one compelling encounter and was it always your intention or something which evolved during recording?

Totally evolved. As we were tracking guitars, I played the riff, absent-mindedly, as the playback track faded out, and Kevin was like, “Oh my god, play that part again.” He didn’t realize it wasn’t something I was just improvising!

For us the biggest pinnacle on the album of nothing but great heights is Ta Douleur. You give it a new breath and energy which escalates in the passions for an insatiable almost lustful pleasure. Tell us about the song and its meaning to you, the Camille original and what you have done with it.

I heard it on the radio–WFMU, which is a great New-York-area musical treasure–and iTunes’d it instantly, and listened obsessively. I have a pretty believable French accent, because my dad worked in Belgium for a year when I was a kid–didn’t pick up much of the language, but I absorbed the pronunciations–and I messed around with the tune just to see what it was like–and I liked it. Now, I did have to eliminate the sections that I was unable to sing, which excise a little bit of the elegance, but turn the song into kind of an unstoppable train. Honestly, I could only pick out a few phrases here and there that I could understand in French, and didn’t really understand the overall until I Google-translated the lyrics.

Some songs you have covered faithfully in your own inimitable style and others you have re-invented. What sparked either decision on each song which way to approach them and have any subsequent ideas not used for the album stayed alive in thoughts for an unveiling at some future point?

I made a deal with myself not to do any Magnetic Fields covers. I’ve done a whole bunch of them, throughout my recordings. But, I have ideas for arrangements of covers of three or four more Magnetic Fields songs! It’s an involuntary function of my consciousness.

Claudia, their drummer and manager, asked me to open for them on a tour a few years ago–I already had my own tour booked, and it broke my heart that I had to say no. I literally could’ve gone to them and said, “Listen, whatever songs you’re not playing in the show, I’ll play them–I will do the part of your repertoire you’re not doing!”

There are a couple of show tunes on the album too, is that a medium you would consider writing for, like to create a soundtrack for a musical?

I actually studied playwriting, intensively, and still write one-acts for the 24 Hour Company, sometimes. Couple years back, they did a benefit on Broadway and I had Julia Stiles and Michael Kenneth Williams–the guy who played the iconic role of Omar on “The Wire”–in mine.

But, no plans, as yet.

Is The Flip Is Another Honey a project you might follow-up with a similarly inspired release at some point?553922_10150926960595200_77130733_n

Quite possibly. I think that, as singers get older, they become more nuanced interpreters of songs–both their own, and others’

What is next for Mike Doughty, creatively and to narrow it down musically?

I’m messing around with songs I wrote for Soul Coughing, trying to figure out how to reclaim them.

Many thanks for taking time to talk with us Mike.

You’re very welcome–thanks for your support!

Would you like to send give us a sales pitch for people to check out your excellent album The Flip Is Another Honey? 😉

THE FLIP COMES WITH FREE CANDY AND PIE!

And finally are there any other songs that you would love to put your distinct touch upon which did not come up on the album?

Allow me to delve into fantasyland for this question–I so wish I could do justice to Sam Cooke’s songs. What an incredible voice that guy had.

The RingMaster Review 08/03/2013

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Mike Doughty: The Flip Is Another Honey

Mike Doughty

    Though admittedly ours was a late introduction to the solo mastery of former Soul Coughing frontman Mike Doughty it has brewed a heightened excitement every time something new emerges from the unique talent. His previous albums, Yes And Also Yes and live extravaganza The Question Jar Show only went to increase anticipation for any future releases as well as probably expectations of those unveilings. The Flip Is Another Honey is the new album from the Brooklyn master of the unpredictable and inspirational, a release which admittedly we had whispers of doubt about before entering its intriguing content. Of course to even question this man and his ideas even in merely glancing thoughts was plain stupidity as the album of cover songs which one assumes have inspired him in some way or simply ignited his own personal passions, is quite sensational.

Released via Snack Bar/Hornblow Recordings, The Flip Is Another Honey, this wonderful title taken from a 1956 review in Variety in regard to the Jerry Lee Lewis release Crazy Arms and meaning “the b-side is also really good”, consists of tracks reinterpreted by Doughty in his own inimitable style. Some are ‘straight’ versions in his unique way whilst others have been teased and seduced by the imagination of the man into little irresistible jewels which ripple with mischief, invention, and inspired vision. It is fair to say despite the ardour brewed by his previous albums the pure joy and impressiveness of this album was unexpected from looking at the chosen songs, so we hang our heads in shame at not having faith as The Flip Is Another Honey is just wonderful.

Apart from the version of Randy Newman song God’s Song (That’s Why I Love Mankind), the brief instrumental  slice of flipStephen Sondheim’s Send in the Clowns, and an irrepressible take of Guys and Dolls song Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat by Frank Loesser with a great havoc ending, all three having the assistance of long time collaborators pianist “Cashmere” Dan Chen and cellist Andrew “Scrap” Livingston, every sound on the album is played by Doughty starting with the irresistible opener Sunshine. Sampling the voice of John Denver throughout the track sees Doughty rapping verses in between, his grizzled baritone narrative entwining deliciously with the harmonies of the songs author. It is an inspired interpretation which is as riveting as it is provocative, and at all moments a respectful homage to the original song.

The bulging sinews of Jimmy Bell, a blues song originally written by Cat Iron with Doughty basing his version on the 15 60 75 the Numbers Band recording, is a pulsating heavy boned rampant beat feast of a song. The track consumes the senses with a compelling potency and vibrant breath which openly shows the blues influences which have cast their inspiration over his previous work.

Take Me Home, Country Roads is a straight forward version of the Denver classic and features the distinct vocal caresses of Rosanne Cash alongside Doughty. To be honest from an already in place dislike of the song the album for one of only a couple of times does not moves the passions something the following Cheap Trick song Southern Girls manages with ease. Again it is a relatively true version to the original which ticks all the boxes and with the smouldering intensity and resonance which weaves across much of the album is a track to hungrily engage with.

To avoid drooling over every subsequent track on the album further personal highlights come firstly with Tightrope. It is a song which Doughty builds around a chorus by The Stone Roses, his raps adding infectious flesh to the addictive chorus as does the fascinating entrancement by the keys. Then there is Running Back a great version of a less known Thin Lizzy track and Reach Out another Cheap Trick track which was originally from the Heavy Metal Motion Picture Soundtrack. Both songs just lead the senses and emotions into a fuller rapture with their uncomplicated but stylishly sculpted presences, the second of the two stunningly merging into acoustic tease Higher State of Consciousness, the Josh Wink techno anthem.

The pinnacle of the album is Doughty’s version of the Camille song Ta Douleur. Sung in French the song is a thrilling seduction with eager tempo and a delicious discord soaked piano wantonness to infect and send the listener into fiery ardour. The greatest triumph in an album of continual peaks, the song is ingenuity at its best.

With further impressive covers of tracks from Doveman, Red House Painters, and Low, The Flip Is Another Honey is an engrossing slice of invention and musical passion from a man who is never lacking either trait in his own work. The fact that for us he has turned songs which previously left no telling imprint on the emotions into passion driven favourites tells all about the album and Mike Doughty.

http://www.mikedoughty.com

9/10

RingMaster 23/02/2013

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Mike Doughty: The Question Jar Show

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.

RingMaster 12/06/2012

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Interview with Mike Doughty

The beginning of 2012 has already given many impressive and inspiring releases but not many are as essential and as completely fulfilling as Yes And Also Yes from Mike Doughty. The album consists of fourteen vibrant, witty and mesmeric indie pop songs which engage and inspire through quality song writing and captivating sounds. Alongside the album Mike also has an autobiography The Book Of Drugs out which deals with drugs, music, and the “weirdness, and messed-up-ness, of life in Soul Coughing” that have been part of life to date. With immense pleasure we had the chance to talk with Mike and ask him about the album, book, his music and more.

Hello and a warm welcome to The Ringmaster Review, thank you for letting us pry a little into your creative world.

2012 is starting off with a bang for with the release of your new album Yes And Also Yes and your autobiography. What is your overriding emotion as they find their way into the ears and eyes of the world?

I tend to keep distant from what the world thinks of what I’m putting out. I definitely feel obliged to the audience, but I think the way to do the best work is to keep your head down, pay attention to what you’re making, not how it’s perceived. Otherwise, I get delirious, and the machinery jams.

You have had a fair few releases under your belt to great acclaim but does the feeling ever lessen on the eve of releasing something new?

Like I said–I have to pay attention to the work, not to the reaction. That said, I guess the short answer is no–because there’s always anxiety.

Do you have different feelings, nerves, tension or whatever over the book compared to the album as it exposes a different and more personal aspect of you in many ways?

References to ex-girlfriends in songs can be super oblique, but in the book, they’re described in detail. That’s been a painful and weirdly exhilarating process, communicating with people from way-back-in-the-way-back. There are people I love of whom I tell some pretty gnarly stories–I’m very scared of their reactions. I don’t want to lose them.

Can we first talk about the album Yes And Also Yes? The title has been commented on everywhere I am sure but can you give our readers the inspiration behind it?

It was the title of an online dating profile. I improvised it–you had to type something in that box just to post it. Later I realized it was kind of weirdly suitable to where I was at. It also related to improv sketch comedy–Del Close and “the rule of yes” and that kind of stuff–and I’ve been doing a lot of comedy shows around Manhattan and Brooklyn, playing a couple of songs on a bill of five or six comedians. So maybe I absorbed some of that.

Any thoughts on those kind of sites, haha did you find any budding romances?

There were some almost-almosts, but nothing of substance, and lots of awkward shittiness. I met my girlfriend through friends–she’s basically been nearby me forever–and there’s a really intense connection that makes all that slogging through dates really ludicrous. Though maybe I had to scan the horizon before I realized she was standing behind me. I say to her, all the time, “Where the hell were you all this time?!”

How would you say Yes And Also Yes differs and has evolved from previous albums Sad Man Happy Man and Golden Delicious?

To a certain extent it feels very specific to where I wrote most of the songs–an artists’ colony called Yaddo in Upstate New York. A lot of it was coaxed from ideas that I’d been collecting since I finished the last album, but it was an unusually intense thing to have them all bloom in the same tiny span of time.

Am I right in believing not all of your fans were taken with and liked the directions you took with previous albums and were strong in their desire to share that with you?

Actually, I’ve been making them happy since Sad Man Happy Man, it would seem. There are always people who go, “He’s better acoustically, as in Skittish,” or, “He’s better with lo-fi electronics, as in Rockity Roll”, or, “He’s better with a full band”, and the “He was better in Soul Coughing” contingent is always a vocal and irritating minority

How did that effect you and has it has a bearing on your emotions and thoughts with this new album?

Sad Man Happy Man I definitely was thinking of a lot of kvetching about over-instrumentation, and I responded to that. This one I just put my head down and got the work done.

How much of you as a person, your emotions and feelings as well as experiences go into your songwriting and lyrics?

Absolutely all of it–though in mysterious, nebulous, sideways angles.

I am not sure if this question makes sense haha but do you ever fear you may expose to much of the real you in your songs or is that not an issue for you?

I’m a committed over-sharer. Totally suited to these times. It’s really not an issue. The only weird thing is when strangers think they know me well enough that they email me to come to their weddings and are taken aback when I decline.

The tracks within Yes And Also Yes carries a vibrant and uplifting tone throughout and even in its darker emotive moments still has a twinkle in the eye kind of mischief. Do you write a song with a particular emotional purpose or do they evolve their own expression and emotion as they come together?

I just write them. I don’t really know where they’re going when I start, and I try and figure out what the song wants to be, rather than try and force it in a certain direction. That sounds like corny hippie shit, but it’s true. In fact, what a song really relates to, on its deepest level, sometimes doesn’t become obvious until I’ve been playing it for years.

Listening to your lyrics one cannot but be in awe at times of the way you use and link unexpected words into a natural union. When you write do you ‘visualise’ the words, feel them rather than just play with them on paper if that makes sense?

They’re definitely not intended to look good on paper, they’re meant to work sonically, absolutely in tandem with the melody, and the pocket in the rhythm they dwell in. I think about how they sound, as opposed to visually.

Is there a particular track or moment on the album that gives you personally an extra warm glow?

When my cellist, Andrew “Scrap” Livingston, says, “Shall we do it again?” before “Rational Man” it is really hilarious and strange to me–as he is extremely hilarious and extremely strange.

The album is very varied with an array of distinctly different sounds and wonderfully enterprising ‘additives’ coming together to make a truly mesmeric release. How does your songwriting evolve from that first seed of a song to the distinct creation you finish with?

I think I have an idea of how I want them arranged when I start writing. I think

The track Holiday (What Do You Want?) features Rosanne Cash, how did your link up with her come about?

She called me a great songwriter from the stage at a benefit show, and my jaw hit the floor. Then, a bunch of months later, there was a note in the chorus of “Holiday” that I was unable to hit, so I thought I’d find a female vocalist to do a harmony, and I could duck it. Before I called up some female vocalists, I just thought, Well, I’ll drop a line to Rosanne, and see if, by some weird twist of fate, she might want to do it as a full-on duet. And she did. WHOA.

Any chance you can teach all other artists how to not make terrible Xmas songs too?

Boy oh boy, the ones that I really hate are the ha-ha-Christmas-is-dumb songs. Too easy!

As you mentioned you wrote most of the songs for the album at an artists’ colony called Yaddo? For us unaware of this place could you elaborate on that and did it make the writing experience better or strikingly different to how you have composed in the past?

It was super fun. I had a studio in the woods. I was totally sequestered. It was pretty great and totally new for me, of course.

The album again is released by yourself. Apart from I am sure an increased work load, are you happier having your music released this way and what are the advantages?

The increased work load is serious–as is the increased expense. Though, allegedly, I’ll make more dough at the other end. Actually, labels have been pretty nice to me over the years, though, at every label, there’s some dude saying, “You should put a piano on that song,” basically so they can play it for other people and tell them the piano was their idea.

Do you think you needed to have gone through being on a label to understand and see you could release your work by yourself and make a living from it?

Very good question. I have a super enthused audience, very sharp, very interested and engaged. And, of course, I’ve toured like a motherfucker. I think that’s got more to do with it than specific label situations.

Can you give some reassuring words for those unsigned artists who still hold on to the belief that a label is the only way forward?

There’s a zillion ways to do it–the sad thing about the labels is that they basically paid for a van and a sound guy. It’s hard to win an audience unless you’re zooming around from show to show for a few years. It’s more difficult for younger artists–even amazingly talented ones.

I read that you are bipolar? Do you think this adds something different or extra to your music that others cannot find within themselves?

Wow, I don’t really know. Since I got medicated and stopped the fucking horrible side of that shit, the songs have been really good, but they weren’t too bad beforehand, either.

Who and what are the influences in music or outside that have had the biggest impact on you as a musician and songwriter?

I was hugely influenced by David Letterman (very absurdist talk show host) when I was a teenager. He’s incredibly poetic. Also the playwright David Mamet is a Jedi of verbal rhythm. A lot of alternative stuff as a teenager–Replacements, Billy Bragg–hip-hop as an older teenager–Tribe Called Quest, Casual, Craig Mack, the Beasties.

As mentioned earlier you also have your autobiography The Book of Drugs out too. I have yet to have the opportunity to read it so can you give some insight to it and the period of your life it deals with.

It’s a long, long time to summarize. Weird childhood on military bases, coming to New York as an 18-year-old in the late 80s, putting together a band that turned into a total toxic shitshow, a long love affair with drugs that turned into a fucked-up nightmare, then emerging from that, and the world being even stranger than it was before.

How did the writing process differ for the book compared to writing lyrics apart from the obvious?

For a song, if you write 30 words, you’ve had a ridiculously productive day!

The book is an honest and stark of your drug addiction and recovery; can you without giving away too much to stop people needing to buy the book, give a little insight into this?

I don’t really know. You need to find your people. In 12-step stuff, meetings, wherever, find the people who have what you want.

Your addiction problems were more concentrated at the time of your band Soul Coughing or were they in place before then too?

Oh, sure. When Soul Coughing turned to pure shit, that’s when I just decided to say fuck it and stop trying not to be wasted consciously, because life just wasn’t worth it.

Was your experience with the band, which was without doubt not a great time a major accelerant of your problems?

Oh yeah, see above. Though if you’re a certain kind of fucked-up person–as I am–you’re gonna find horrible abusive people no matter what. Had they gone down in a shipwreck, I’d have found another three awful people to be in a band with.

Obviously the book holds much more than the things we just talked of but as the title suggests your problems with drugs and addiction are the major elements. How did you feel whilst writing about this period of your life for the book and future public consumption?

I’ll pretty much tell anybody anything about myself. I don’t have a lot of secrets. I’ve told pretty much every one of these stories over dinner to somebody. I worried, for sure, about people in my life being hurt by what I said about them, though.

Going by your lyrical style and music I can imagine along with the honest portrayal of your life there is a healthy vein of humour too throughout the book, did that humour give you a strength during your darker times?

Yeah, the dark humor, the weird consciousness, that’s basically all I’ve got.

Will you consider another book in the future?

Love to, if I have a good idea.

What is next for you once the promotion for the album and book has passed?

Songs, more songs, always writing songs.

Are there live shows on the horizon, hopefully in the UK?

I sure hope so. Love the UK.

A great thanks for sharing your time for our questions, it has been a real pleasure.

Anytime, I really appreciate the opportunity.

Would you like to leave us with any last comments or thoughts?

I’m sure I’ll think of something really interesting to add 90 minutes after I send this to you!

And lastly knowing you as an inspired poet too would you give us your favourite couple of lines from either one of your pieces or a poem that inspired you?

Rita Dove: “If you can’t be free / Be a mystery.”

Read the Yes And Also Yes review @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2012/01/15/mike-doughty-yes-and-also-yes/

RingMaster 17/02/2012

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