The Duke and the King: Nothing Good Can Stay (Shock)

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The Duke and the King: One More American Song
The Duke and the King: Nothing Good Can Stay (Shock)

The singer-songwriter behind this gorgeously tuneful, lyrically probing debut is Simone Felice of the terrific Felice Brothers, two times Best of Elsewhere artists (2007, 2008) for their amalgam of ragged-but-right country which owed huge debts to the early Band and country-styled Bob Dylan, but who put their own stamp on proceedings.

The songwriter/drummer has left the band and teamed up with Robert Chicken Burke (never heard of him) to become this outfit which looks to a more melodic period in American country-rock history, that of the early Seventies. But while songs here have as much unashamed tunefulness as say Bread or America, Felice writes material with titles like If You Ever Get Famous, The Morning I Get to Hell, I've Been Bad and -- very telling -- One More American Song.

That latter songs starts, "If I had a cinder block for every lie, I've told I could of built us a house, fine as any city block" and then slews into this, "John was a quiet boy in school, Johnny had fiery red hair, he went in the army like a lot of them do, and he got fucked up over there, and if you see him now he pushes a shopping cart in the parking lot".

So while there is a lot of looking back musically these songs peel back the plasters on America, and reveals the pains of the personal such as that great loss of innocence: "I was born in the Summer of Sam . . . a regular boy in the Reagan time, with my BB gun and satellite and boy did I want my MTV, everything was easy, so easy".

The sole lyrics of the melancholy but beautiful soundscape of Lose Myself are "it makes me want to lose myself".

A touch of Wilco's quieter side with soul-searing lyrics, seductive melodies at that intersection of soulful country and folk-pop, and a voice which pulls you in gently. Quite some combination, and unexpected given the Felice Brothers' frayed-edge approach.

Highly recommended. 

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V1K1 - Sep 14, 2009

These guys are brilliant! Love love Love Words voice guitar!

Chris - Sep 15, 2009

Nice write-up. The band is playing Sydney fairly soon, not sure if they are making it over to Auckland too?
There is a nice 5 song live radio session up at daytrotter.com that is worth checking out.

Angela Soutar - Sep 24, 2009

Yes there are heartrending things about American society but this is way over the top. A little sickening and maudlin.

There are parts of the world where emotion like this is warranted but if you are a dumb ass American boy and go to war or live in poverty then compared with other parts of the world boy - you deserve it for being so f---ing dumb.

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