The Duke & the King

The Duke & the King

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Although the Duke & the King is an American band hailing from the Catskills Mountains, this self-titled disc is their first domestic release, a compilation culled from the contents of two previous albums released in Europe. That a U.S. group can only get a record out in the U.S. through the American subsidiary of a British label (Silva Screen's newly formed So imprint) may be explained, at least somewhat, by the music. Former Felice Brothers member Simone Felice, the leader of the Duke & the King (which also features Bobby Burke, Nowell Haskins, and Simi Stone) references Ronald Reagan and MTV on the autobiographical "Union Street," positioning himself as a child of the ‘80s. But in musical terms, he and his bandmates seem much older. Specifically, their style is closely evocative of some of the rural country/folk/rock of the late '60s and early ‘70s; think the Band's first three albums, Van Morrison's "Caledonia Soul" trilogy of Moondance, Tupelo Honey, and His Band and the Street Choir, and Neil Young's solo discography up to Harvest. In musical terms, then, this is a record that should have come out some time between 1968 and 1972. Felice, who turns lead vocals over occasionally to the soulful Burke and the Sam Cooke-like Haskins, even evinces much of the melancholia of the ‘60s hangover era of the first Nixon administration, when anti-war activists and drug-addled hippies began to realize that Woodstock wasn't really a harbinger of countercultural hegemony. Felice is bedeviled by an unspecified sadness and longing, and that only adds to the resonance of well-constructed songs that will appeal to triple-A radio in the U.S., now that his band finally has gotten a purchase on its homeground.

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