Fans of American lit know the Duke and the King as the conniving scoundrels from “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.’’ Fans of indie music will soon know the Duke & the King as the brilliant new pairing of Simone Felice and Robert Burke, whose “Nothing Gold Can Stay’’ is out next week just after their tour starts.
The Duke and the King are best known for conning and manipulating their way downriver with Huck and Jim in Mark Twain’s classic The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and the duo has inspired Simone Felice’s (yes, of those Felices) new folk outfit The Duke & The King.
This new indie-roots duo takes its name from "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," its album title from a Robert Frost poem, and its sound from early-'70s folkies such as Cat Stevens and Neil Young. As you might expect, there isn't much about "Nothing Gold Can Stay," the Duke & the King's debut, that suggests it was made during this century.
Released 31st August, Paper Covers Stone is the ninth album from Willard Grant Conspiracy and a stark contrast to the full orchestration of 2008’s Pilgrim Road.
Loose Records had a suggestion that we would like a new recording of songs from the band’s catalogue; recast in the minimalist style that WGC employs when playing solo, duo, trio or quartet performances that lack a drummer. Never shy about presenting different versions of songs or using varied instrumentation or formations, the request was seen as an opportunity to present a collection of new and old songs in an open, loose and improvisational style similar in approach to a live performance.
Simone Felice grew up with brothers Ian and James in the shadow of the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York. Their surroundings were rugged, uncompromising and beautiful. Music ran in the three boy’s veins. They formed a band called, not surprisingly, The Felice Brothers, a kind of hillbilly Kings Of Leon.
Nothing Gold Can Stay could hardly have had a sadder origin. Simone Felice, the drummer with the Felice Brothers, had been wondering for a while if it wasn’t time for a change when his girlfriend lost the baby they’d been expecting. With the impermanence of life thus shockingly revealed to him, he realised that he had to follow his heart, and that meant leaving the band he had formed with his brothers and finding a new musical direction. Felice hooked up with an old friend, Robert Burke, and the pair headed off into a cabin in the woods with a copy of Huckleberry Finn. From the book came their name, and from the cabin emerged — as is the way these days — a wondrous album. Yes, a sense of loss does hang heavily over these songs — mainly a sense of lost innocence and the desire to return to simpler times (“If we can only get to Union Street/Then everything will be all right”). But you may be surprised to discover that the music is sweet, soft and, for the most part, hopeful.
The last in a week of special 'Duke & King' selected play-lists comes from 'The King' Robert Burke.
Another soulful selection, with Sam Cooke and Stevie Wonder appearing again, plus gems from Etta James and Bob Dylan.
This rootsy debut from The Duke & The King takes its own sweet time in ruminating on the past, which I suppose is only right and proper. Named after the pair of grifter conmen in The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn, The Duke & The King are, respectively, Felice Brothers drummer/ singer Simone Felice and former George Clinton accomplice Robert "Chicken" Burke, who clearly harbour a lingering affection for an earlier era when, as they put it in "One More American Song", "our jeans were torn... and the music sewed us together".
This month we have album tracks from The Duke & The King and The Handsome Family for your listening pleasure, plus EXCLUSIVE FIRST PLAYS of new material from Danny & The Champions of the World from his new LP “Streets of our time”, Willard Grant Conspiracy from his new album “Paper Covers Stone” and from Loose’s latest Trevor Moss and Hannah-Lou from there forthcoming debut album.