”What’s the use you learning to do right, when it’s troublesome to do right and ain’t no trouble to do wrong and the wages is just the same.”
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Chapter. 16.
It was inevitable that Jim and Huckleberry Finn would meet at least one or two charlatans. But two together? The two grafters, drifters from all around, were known simply as The Duke and The King. One was youngish, around thirty, the other much older around seventy. The Duke, of Bridgewater, proclaimed himself his father’s rightful successor and The King claimed – why wouldn’t you know it – himself the rightful King of France. Aboard the make-shift raft Jim and Finn assembled, one pair leads the other into trouble, scheming their way down the Mississippi.
But no one’s scheming here.
The Duke and King here are Simone Felice and Robert Burke respectively. This, their debut album, is homespun from the roving world of the southern states, created by the very environment around the two freebirds. The ten tracks assembled encompass the wild wide world out there. Simone on vocals brings C,S,N&Y to mind or Jeff Buckley perhaps. The former due in turn to the beautiful bending, folding melodies and sincerity; the latter due to the buzzing reverb, the ghostly high notes floating around in the background, the emotional waves. The guitars range from the simple chords of ‘If you get famous’ to the fuzzy, crashing highlight that is ‘Lose Myself.’ There are not a lot of bands around these days, let alone a duet, that can emulate the meandering qualities on show here.
Though there is exceptionally fraught, fragile heartache and heartbreak here, there are tender moments like ‘Still Remember’ that edge closer to enjoyable pop and away from the bluesy folk for a while. ‘Nothing Gold Can Stay’ is a breath of fresh air. It’s that salon door opening out into the clear skies. It’s a gentle ship on a rolling river. What the album misses in instant pop hooks, it splashes about here and there with gorgeous simplicity; some gospel honesty, some elevated touches of bliss and some very beautifully crafted moments. Every word is meant. Every confused, rattled emotion is pointedly displayed for those willing to listen. They should form a super-uber group with Fleet Foxes and bask in the winning results; sleep on mattresses stuffed with money on their gigantic riverboats and enjoy a rockstar booze cruise down the Mississippi and off into a blazing horizon.