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Duke and the King - Long Live the Duke and the King

  by Anthony Middleton

published: 15 / 10 / 2010

Duke and the King - Long Live the Duke and the King
Label: Loose Music
Format: CD


Solid second album from the Duke and the King, which, however unfortunately does not match up to the promise shown on their much acclaimed debut album of last year

That this is a good album is not in doubt. That it really is not a worthy follow-up to last year’s sublime 'Nothing Gold Can Stay' is also not really in doubt. While the new album has a couple of outstanding songs, the debut only had a couple that were not. With a lot of touring to fit alongside recording, the album feels rushed with not enough regard given to quality control and providing a coherent whole. The first album was the product of Simone Felice, newly bereaved by the still birth of a child and Bobby Bird who had his own tribulations; the songs seemed to have been wrought in a mood of creative emotional recovery and inspiration. The energy and honesty of the band live has been a revelation over the last year as their growing popularity in terms of venue size and place on the bill has attested. Now they have two hugely talented new members, singer/violinist Simi Stone and drummer/singer Nowell Haskins. Given that Bird sings along with Felice, that is four singers, which makes for great harmonies, but when they all have to have a turn at lead, it makes for a disjointed album which does hand break turns is it moves from style and genre to another. The only song really worthy of the first album is 'Shaky', continuing from where' One More American Song' ended with a continued examination of how real peoples’ live are destroyed by the Iraq War. Superficially upbeat, the song reflects on modern day shell shock and the only response being short-term gratification. Elsewhere Nowell is inspired by Sam Cooke on his soulful 'Hudson River'; a beautiful song, the change in mood a reflection of the band’s unusual, for America, multi-racial lineup. Simi Stone is in fine voice in 'No Easy Way Out', a country rock romp; again totally in contrast to the rest of the album. The attempt here seems to be to eschew genre and make soulful honest music, whether influenced by Topanga Canyon, Nashville or Detroit. It doesn’t quite work as there doesn’t seem to be a central idea holding the disparate parts together. The highlights are undoubtedly those sung by Felice who, regularly covering 'Helpless' and 'Long May You Run live,' is obviously beholden to Young: 'You and I' and 'Gloria' both hold the album together, the former with the memorable line “Love is a coke dealer's’ daughter”. He also provides one of the weakest moments with the closing song Don’t Take that Plane Tonight. At over six minutes it feels like a contrived, overblown finale-by-numbers with wailing backing harmonies that obliterate the song. The Duke and the King have been, for my money, one of the best live bands of the past year and have the potential to become a great recording band. This album is adequate, far better than most, but nowhere near that potential.

Track Listing:-
1 O'Gloria
2 Shine On You
3 Shaky
4 Right Now
5 Hudson River
6 No Easy Way Out
7 You And I
8 Children Of The Sun
9 Have You Seen It?
10 Don't Take That Plane Tonight

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live reviews

Scala, London, 22/11/2009
Duke and the King - Scala, London, 22/11/2009
Anthony Middleton is impressed by rising Americana act the Duke and the King's infectious brand of Americana at show at the Scala in London

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