By ALAN K. STOUT
Throughout the course of an average year, dozens of songwriters, bands and musicians from Northeastern Pennsylvania release albums. Rock albums. Country albums. Indie albums. Metal albums. On any given week, one of them is likely to be dropping.
“Rhythm Of Our Hearts,” however – the new album from Mike Dougherty – does not fall into the category of any of those genres. His album is a soul album. And there’s nothing average about it. It is one of the best regionally released records of the year.
“My influences, hands-down, are Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye,” says Dougherty. “Up until just a few years ago, I’d always listened to a lot of rock, like Led Zeppelin, but I was playing with The Woody Browns Project, and they really turned me on to some funk and soul, and I realized that I enjoyed singing funk and soul music way more than rock. It felt right to me. The first time I listened to ‘Songs in The Key of Life’ all the way through, I just knew that soul music was the way to go. Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On” … the lyrics stay true to this day. Listening to those albums had a big impact on my life.”
Dougherty says he first began writing songs while still in high school and that he’s been writing every day ever since. Highlights of “Rhythm Of Our Hearts” include the title track, “How You Feel,” “On The Ground” and “Can We Be Together.” The vocals are smooth, the arrangements are clever and the music is engaging. He says he sometimes finds inspiration for writing by watching TV, especially the news.
Still, with just one listen to the album, it becomes clear that Dougherty’s biggest muse is love. Romance shows up in many of the songs.
“I have a lot of inspiration, but one of the biggest ones came about a year before I started writing music for this album,” he says. “I met the love of my life, and just being with her brought out the best in me. I’d needed to have a guitar when I was with her, because just singing to her is how I wrote some of my favorite songs on the album.”
Dougherty can be found on Facebook and the album is available at Gallery of Sound, CD Baby, Amazon and iTunes. He says that while he wrote all of the songs himself on an acoustic guitar, and that while he was able to imagine how they’d sound with a full production, it was the studio musicians that played on it that helped make it a true soul record.
“It was amazing,” he says. “Just to hear those guys play what I’d been hearing in my head while writing those songs was just amazing. It was so surreal. It was like the best moment of my life. The first time I heard ‘Can We Be Together’ with a horn section and the background vocals … I had a tear in my eye.”
He hopes listeners will not only be able to put themselves into the songs, but also learn a little bit more about him through the music.
“Every song is a piece of me,” he says. “If the listener is someone I know and have known for a while, I want them to hear who I am. I’m not a very sociable person, but when it comes to music , I’m very outgoing. I just want them to hear my point of view on life and love, and how I truly feel, because it’s my easiest way to communicate. For others, I just want them to hear a fresh new sound which blends my rock influences with my old soul. I want them to hear the love that I put into this project.”
(Alan K. Stout has covered rock and pop music in Northeastern Pennsylvania since 1992. His weekly radio show, “Music On The Menu,” can be heard every Sunday from 9-10 p.m. on 105 The River. He is currently playing four tracks from the ”Rhythm of Our Hearts" album on the show. This story also appeared in the October 29, 2014 edition of The Weekender.)