The Duke & King follow up their highly regarded debut, of barely a year ago, 'Nothing Gold Can Stay', with their sophomore album Long Live The Duke & The King. The four grifters from New York reprise their roles as purveyors of fine soul filled folk to once again showcase some outstanding song writing skills coupled with deft arrangements and musicianship of the highest calibre. We have the time honoured hankering of many a drummer wishing to be not just the 'man at the back with the sticks but the lead singer' to thank for the success of The Duke & The King. After resigning from the family band The Felice Brothers, Simone Felice and guitarist Robert 'Chicken' Burke, together with violinist Simi Stone and hopefully contented drummer Nowell Haskins, have made the Duke & The King more than just a side project.
The album, recorded once again "Deep in the woods in Bearsville", Greater New York, opens softly enough with a rather timid touch. As if finding its feet for the performance ahead, Gloria rings out with sea scented cymbal rolls and over layered four part vocals...."The girls would come and go but you were always there, with them dying daisies in your hair." As an opener it's good, but what follows is generally a lot better.
With its sumptuously fuzzy guitar chords and suitably subtle but sweet harmonica 'Shine On You' ebbs and flows along, washing over you with the calmness of serenity. The finale of the harmonised female backing vocals exaggerates the darker reflections intimated at within the song..."Build your life on a dream, build your own machine. Turn the night into the day, you have no need to turn away." The song is rich in evocative textures and serves as a fabulous platform to capture the beautifully tender vocals.
In a kind of homage to anti Vietnam songs of the early 70's, Shaky (Due out as a single 20th Sept) is steeped in nostalgic reflections from Superman to the Jackson 5 whilst pondering latter day U.S overseas foreign policy..."Baghdad she's a mean old town, I get the feeling she don't want me around." You can almost hear the choppers in the background as the song pans out with echoes of Walk On The Wild Side....."And the coloured girls go, doo dee doo, doo dee doo..." all capped off with some fruity and funky horns as we are asked to "Come and shake that Country ass."
Hudson River goes ever more soulful, pairing the male, and backing female vocals, gloriously against each other recalling elements of Wilson Pickett or Otis Redding as the crescendos build and break with power and emotion. The female vocals, and virtuoso violin skills, of Simi Stone take over on the all American tale of woe on 'No Easy Way Out' before 'You & I' takes us on a mellow journey cast off by some acoustic guitar reminiscent of Breakfast At Tiffany's! Hopefully not intended as a new Hallmark moment waiting to happen........."Love is a coke dealers daughter, love is a slave ship at sea, love is a wheel made of sawdust, it's all we need..." This is Long Lives 'If You Ever Get Famous' with its terrific imagery and warmth.
Children Of The Sun takes us closer to Donovan with a nod to The Hurdy Gurdy Man before the band sign off in fine style with more 60's infused throwbacks in the form of the wonderfully harmonious 'Have You Seen It' and the edgier anxiousness of 'Don't Take That'. The latters indulgences into a tempered guitar solo possibly highlighting what's still to come from the Duke & The King.
Long Live The Duke & The King. Indeed.