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Published: 2012/11/07
by Brian Robbins

Mike Doughty
The Flip Is Another Honey

Snack Bar/Megaforce

Oh, I can see you now, slapping your forehead and wailing, “An album of covers? From Mike Doughty ? One of the coolest beats-and-brains-fueled songwriters I know doing an album of other peoples’ songs ? Get outta here!”

Yeah, well, it’s true – but don’t fret, as everything’s copacetic. Doughty’s new The Flip Is Another Honey offers moments of grooves and grit; wit and wisdom; sweet and salt; and sturm und drang with a beat you can shake your butt to. (Better yet, make that strum und drang.)

If you have any questions about Doughty’s ability to dowse funk out of the unlikeliest of places, those will be answered in the opening cut on The Flip Is Another Honey. Doughty weaves samples of John Denver’s “Sunshine” – that’s right: “Sunshine on my shoulder …” – with walloping beats and a rapped-out lyric that’s oh-so-cool. The samples of Denver swirl and the boom-da-booms boom; the mix pans to and fro and Doughty remains street-suave through it all. “Where the hell did that come from?” you’ll ask yourself. And then hit “repeat.”

“Sunshine” is one of the 11 songs (out of the album’s 15 cuts) that Doughty is the sole music maker on, by the way. Rosanne Cash joins in on vox for yet another Denver cover, “Take Me Home, Country Roads” (not as extreme of a makeover as “Sunshine”, but Doughty manages to make them there country roads pretty urban nonetheless). Piano man Dan Chen and Doughty’s faithful cello monster sidekick Andrew “Scrap” Livingston lend a hand on three other tunes, including a sweet instrumental take on Stephen Sondheim’s “Send In The Clowns”.

Speaking of musical moments (I know, I know – the whole album’s full of musical moments; I mean musical … like in stage plays? You with me now?), “Sit Down, You’re Rocking The Boat” from Guys And Dolls is offered up in Doughty’s best Nicely-Nicely Johnson delivery – right up until the crazed bellowing of the chorus at the tune’s end. And the lovely 28-second “A Fanfare” sounds like it should be from the score of a Broadway production, but it’s actually the one wee little Doughty original on the album.

Cheap Trick gets a couple of nods from Mr. Doughty – the happy-go-lucky-with-a-touch-of-darkness vibe of “Southern Girls” and ”Reach Out”, ushered in with a keyboard line that smolders like a slightly cleaned-up version of Nirvana’s “All Apologies”. Here we have a Stone Roses-inspired piece (the choruses of “Tightrope” are theirs while the rest of the song is Doughty’s); a Camille tune sung in French by the non-French-speaking Doughty (he says he learned “Ta Douleur” phonetically); some Randy Newman (the bluesy “Mankind”); and a take on Thin Lizzy’s “Running Back” that retains all the original’s wistfulness while applying some new sonic colors in the nicest of ways.

In the end, it’s clear that even though this is an album of covers, it’s without question a Mike Doughty album … and if you had never heard the originals (and nobody told you the difference) you’d be saying, “Jeez – he’s as funky/crazy/smart as ever, isn’t he?”

Exactly.

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