Now on extended leave from the critically acclaimed Felice Band, drummer and vocalist Simone Felice, alongside Robert Chicken Burke, unveils the acoustic-glam-gospel combo The Duke And The King with their debut album `Nothing Gold Can Stay'.
Simone has always been considered the driving force behind The Felice Brothers, not only by adding a loose-limbed rhythm to his brothers' soulful take on the Great American Songbook but also through his wild-eyed and occasionally unpredictable behaviour onstage.
`Nothing Gold Can Stay' was recorded in splendid isolation in a makeshift studio in Bearsville, New York State, and then taken down The Hudson to be mixed and mastered by Grammy Award winning hip hop maestro Bassy Bob Brockmann (Notorious B.I.G.'s `Ready To Die'). It's an album that is populated by those on the brink of fame and fortune, those just getting by and those who have lost their way. The Duke And The King's debut album celebrates adolescence's not so innocent times while grudgingly accepting the occasionally harsh reality of the streets of a city that they both grew up on.
Simone Felice and Robert 'Chicken' Burke adopted the names of two mischievous characters from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for this album. Based on this alone, fans of the Mark Twain novel may surmise Nothing Gold Can Stay has a certain peripatetic charm and wistful longing; and they'd be right.
This tremendous collection of dusty Americana kicks off with If You Ever Get Famous. Felice's stunning, shimmering country folk vocal is as sad as waving goodbye to a loved one. When he sings, ''If you ever get famous, don't forget about me'', it's impossible not to reflect on bridges burned.
The quality remains high. Still Remember Love takes a turn into Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young territory, albeit slightly adulterated with hints of Arthur Lee psychedelia, while Lose My Self crashes around epically like Pink Floyd soundtracking a western.
In Suzanne, meanwhile, there are jazzy trumpets, unhurried country guitars and a bluesy subject matter. Certainly this tale of an amorous man's determination to get the woman he wants references the classic JJ Cale Tulsa sound in consummate style.
One More American Song's affecting story of an army veteran reduced to pushing a shopping trolley in the street rounds off the album. Nick Cave and My Morning Jacket are the most obvious touchstones, but Dylan and Leonard Cohen are also brought to mind, such is the depth of emotion wrought by Felice and Burke's careful approach.
Many great songwriters write about aging, sadness, lost love and thwarted dreams. The Duke & The King are worthy of attention because they manage to tackle these big ideas with clarity, honesty and a total lack of pomposity and have created an understated gem. --Lou Thomas
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