06 Aug Boston Globe
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.
Twain’s characters and Felice and Burke’s partnership share the ability to conjure beguiling tales. The modern Duke (Felice, above left) and King (Burke), however, are not here to pick your pockets. Rather, they roll out an emotionally rich batch of songs that turn on Felice’s vibrant wordplay. The two drummers by trade work a variety of instruments and arrangements to touch on folk and pop but ultimately make music that casts a moody, original light upon the lyrics.
Felice’s songs are trim and chiseled, most notable for their sheer honesty and attention to detail. “Union Street,’’ for example, is a snapshot of youthful turbulence that will seem three-dimensional to anyone whose younger days coincided with the mid ’80s.
For this new project Felice departed the Felice Brothers, the roots band he started with his two younger brothers. The Duke & the King’s music is quieter and more introspective. It takes on joy and loss with equal measure, and at its best – “Still Remember Love,’’ “Lose Myself’’ – lands at the intersection of the two.
True grifters, the Duke & the King are dramatic, bringing to life the yearning in “If You Ever Get Famous’’ and the hope in the lovely “Summer Morning Rain.’’