The second album by The Duke and the King arrives with the swagger of a band that is comfortable in its shoes and with a clear view of the road ahead. For those of us who had been following the progress of The Felice Brothers, the first album of Simone Felice’s breakaway project, “Nothing Gold can Stay”, reaffirmed the quality of Simone’s voice and his songwriting. It offered a restrained and “laid back” musical vision in striking contrast with The Brothers ramshackle country punk.
Although presented as a group venture it felt very much like a solo album. Here, on this glorious, uplifting work, The Duke and The King is a band and a truly great one. While the brothers have hitched their wagon onto the music and mythology of rural Americana, TDATK tap into the deep well of gospel and soul. Much of this influence can be attributed to the drafting into the band of Nowell Haskins and Simi Stone. Their voices and musical influences mix the country/folk of CSNY, James Taylor and Donovan(for God’s sake!) with the funky soul of The Isley Brothers and (dare I say it) The Jackson Five.
The aforementioned brothers (the Jacksons, that is) even get a name check on the Iraq war song “Shaky”. Here Simone laments the fact that the J 5 “grew up so fast” while his character is trying to escape the effects of that war through any pills or grooves that can be found. There is, as usual, a dark edge to the lyrics and at times we hear the world weary voice of a man who has recently had a close brush with death – Simone this year underwent open heart surgery. Yet, as in all Gospel music, there is hope and joy. As they sing in Right Now, “Pull back the curtains and open the blinds, And let the sun shine..”
Do yourself a big favour and treat yourself to this album, you will feel all the better for it!