About 20 years ago there was a short-lived but interesting "new folk" movement which emerged out of New York's Downtown. Following the success of Michelle Shocked's Texas Campfire Tapes ('86) came Roger Manning, Cindy Lee Berryhill and Kirk Kelly who sometimes rapped like Beat poets, pulled in a fair swag of young Dylan and Woody Guthrie, and dressed like they were auditioning for Velvet Underground.
A number were signed to the hardcore label SST too: they had a "folk you" attitude.
I'd almost forgotten about these acts -- then I heard Dutchess/Duke out of Seattle who similarly nod to the Dylan/Guthrie axis and "folk you", but also have some of Shocked's campfire attitude as well as hauling in a bit of the Beatles for Sale period when Lennon fell under the influence of Dylan. Folk with pop melodies.
There's an upbeat quality to much of what Dutchess/Duke do -- although they also manage the whole melancholy thing as befits the genre.
But on repeat plays this one reminds you how simple music can convey complex emotions, and they also have enough in the way of choruses to keep your attention.
They are pleasingly lo-fi and a bit wobbly ("authentic" I guess is the word?) and on the cover they hold up the album title and tracks on flash cards like Dylan doing Subterranean Homesick Blues.
So they know their history but also bring something post-modern and "folk you" to the genre.
By Graham Reid, posted