Saturday, August 08, 2009

The Duke And The King - Nothing Gold Can Stay

Remember the days when you would lose yourself for hours at a time obsessing over every word and every sonic detail about one specific album? Lock yourself in your room with the headphones on and be transported away from the day’s minutiae? Spend the day in a goose-bumped state of disbelief that somewhere a few musicians had holed up in a studio to create music that touched you so deeply? And then, when you came up for air, yammered endlessly trying to convince every sap who would listen that they HAD to have this record?

Well, if you’re like me (read: old), those days are rarer than a slugger who actually admits he’s on the juice. But I’m currently working through my rolodex (told you I’m old) trying to browbeat unsuspecting victims into giving a listen to Nothing Gold Can Stay, the debut disc by The Duke And The King, the bountiful result of a bleak winter’s woodshedding in Woodstock, NY between former Felice Brother’s drummer Simone Felice and Robert “Chicken” Burke, who’s collaborated with George Clinton, Sweet Honey in The Rock and Toshi Reagon.

The songs, born of personal heartbreak and deep reflection, are bathed in a melancholic haze of a nostalgic heart searching for a simpler time when music was all you needed to see you through. The end of “Union Street” sums it up: “Such a long long way to go, and nobody gets out alive, but just as long as we got rock and roll everything will be alright”.

While The Felice Brothers find inspiration in the freewheeling magic of The Basement Tapes and the ragged edges of punk rock, The Duke And The King look to the gentle soul of Sam Cooke and the passionate world embrace of Marvin Gaye, with shades of mid-period Bee Gees soul-chedelia, all delivered with the non-ironic, snark-free earnestness of prime Cat Stevens. Fans of Iron and Wine and Elliott Smith will be knocked out by Nothing Gold Can Stay.

Simone Felice’s haunting, quivering tenor is a major new voice who has fused americana and soul music to create the year’s best debut and an absolute lock for those pesky year-end best of list that will sprout like so many wild weeds in a few months. Not to mention his charismatic live performances, on display this past Monday at a suffocatingly hot, sold-out stop at Philadelphia’s coolest venue (OK, it’s tied with Johnny Brenda’s), the Chapel at The First Unitarian Church. The tiny Chapel (site of The Felice Brothers Philly debut a couple of years ago) brought out the sure to be growing faithful for a night of sweat-soaked commUnion as Felice led his four piece band through a sweat-soaked, emotional short set that comprised the highlights of Nothing Gold Can Stay and a few old Felice Brothers songs (“Radio Song”, a fiery “Don’t Wake The Scarecrow and show opener “The Devil is Real”). Felice’s smoldering, eyes shut intensity belied a gentle soul who delivered fragile, beautiful songs with a missionary zeal that thrilled the passionate crowd while evoking the spirit of a revival meeting . I know it’s impossible to quantify what makes someone a star, but Simone Felice has that elusive quality, that indefinable “it”.

Now go buy Nothing Gold Can Stay.
The Duke & The King - "One More American Song" (from Nothing Gold Can Stay)
The Felice Brothers - "Nowhere New York" (from Tonight At The Arizona)
The Felice Brothers - "Trailer Song" (from Through These Reins And Gone)
The Big Empty - "Home From War" (from The Big Empty)
Nothing Gold Can Stay is available at Main Street Music, 4444 Main Street in Philadelphia, (215) 487-7732


bigtuna said...

nice job trip. what you said,man.


Philijams said...

Totally bummed over the the cancellation of post-August 8th hoops and viewing life through the lens of a Summer Morning Rain, I perused over to Teenage Kicks. I loved the post and the creative word play. The album inspired a post fit for the sleeve of the album. (Just wanted to match your Rolodex line.) I'm like, melancholy. I guess I can deal with melancholy today. So I hid myself within invisible walls and gave the album a listen.

If you don't have 37 minutes to spare and you wanted a cliff notes sense of the album all need to do is listen to One More American Song. But as you suggest if you have more time, you can easily cocoon with a comfortable voice, singing minimalistic lyrics, wrapped in superb atmospheric music. With the buds out I'm thinking that was time well spent, but I'm not wanting to dwell there. So like the Water Spider I went 'skipping' hoping to stumble into a happier frame of mind. Give me the broom, one more puddle, the court's almost dry.

Brian from NJ said...

Nice writeup, Trip. I have a hard time coming up with enough adjectives to describe how great this album is.

Unknown said...

I'm a hardcore fan and desperately looking for the very out-of-print "Big Empty" album. You woulnd't happen to have a link, would ya?

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