One of the most anticipated albums of the year was released this week in the form of the debut foot-long from Seattle's much adored, The Dutchess And The Duke, on Hardly Art Records. If you were as blown back as we were at the impression left by their debut 7" on Boom Boom last fall, the album fully lives up to those high expectations, and proves that this circle of old friends can not only make a proper folk rock sound work in the 7" single format, but equally smack out a home run of an album without so much as even getting their clothes wrinkled. Although this record isn't exactly prime for the proverbial house party, nor is it weird enough to be the soundtrack to your twisted inner daydreams, it's one hell of an impressive album that tows the line few rock'n'rollers can compete with in these modern times. The songs are nothing short of honest, vulnerable, and unwavering, and it's absence of fun and nihilism is made up with the cold reality of pain and misery within, and builds itself into a chest-tightening benchmark of the miracle of what rock'n'roll can do to a person. Couple that with the fact that anyone brave enough to record actual "heart felt" songs without abandoning their roots or getting cheese-filled, is beyond ballsy, and the songs simply cut to the bone, and bleed with realness and sincerity like records they just don't make anymore. Right off the bat, it's the vocals that set them apart from the crowd, and if the top-notch Jesse/Kimberly harmonies aren't beyond authentic, they'll easily raise all the hairs on your body just like the classics that inspired them. From the undulating tender'n gruff Lee Hazelwood-style firmly in check on standout songs like "Ship Made of Stone," and the ramshackle, yet uplifting "Armageddon Song" leaving the listener with a warm sense of contentment, The Dutchess and the Duke prove they can straddle the duality of life's ups and downs and conjure up some of the most beautiful music of our time. Coming from a guy that loves the true ugliness of life transpired into a daily soundtrack spread over a wide spectrum, this is quite a revelation. And enjoying this album as much as I do, it ushers in a feeling of stirring maturity that I've resisted for as long as I could, and now my surrender is completely imminent. But listening to it over and over again, it gets better each time, and once you know the songs by heart, it's hard to shake the fact that this album is completely irresistible.
It's hard to imagine that just mere months ago, these Northwest figureheads were busy ramrodding their way around the Seattle music circuit in bands as dashingly bashing as the Fe Fi Fo Fums, and Rat Fancy, but just as there's a dark side lurking behind every good time, The Dutchess And The Duke call upon their favorite inspirations from the era when real songwriting and generational conflict were at their peak, and come out with an American classic on their hands. The songs are riveting right from the start, and celebrate the joyless sides of existence in a singer-songwriter context that will make you seriously reconsider the genre, and maybe even get you digging out those Pentangle, Fred Neil, and Donovan albums lingering in the back of your local record store's "easy listening" section.
Pick up your very own copy of The Dutchess And The Duke's She's The Dutchess, He's The Duke on LP or CD right HERE, and be sure to catch them live on tour throughout the South and Midwest over the next few weeks. Also, check them out headlining the Victim of Time SNOOOZE FEST- Saturday July 19th, at Cobra Lounge in Chicago (free admission, ages 21+), which also coincides as the release party for their "Never Had A Chance" b/w "Scorpio" single on the always introspective, HoZac Records.
check out a video clip of Dutchess and the Duke performing "Mary" live in Dallas, courtesy of trentostvig: