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The Duke & The King mine mellow gold on Nothing Gold Can Stay

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Driftin' and griftin': The Duke & The King - DAVE HERRON
  • Dave Herron
  • Driftin' and griftin': The Duke & The King

Is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn still controversial? One would hope, if only to keep the afterlife tolerable for its cantankerous author. While the novel has been alternately regarded as a goodie or a baddie, two of its characters are more clear-cut: the con artists known as The Duke and The King. Villainous names to appropriate ... and an odd choice for a musical duo that's earning a solid thumbs-up.

Last winter, Robert "Chicken" Burke and Simone Felice (of The Felice Brothers acclaim) twined their voices together, recording in Felice's one-room Catskills cabin as The Duke & The King. So far, Nothing Gold Can Stay (Ramseur) and its accompanying tour -- which hits Club Café on Sat., Aug. 15 -- has the U.K. music press hyperventilating.

The album opens with the cautionary daydream, "If You Ever Get Famous," soon followed by the vintage drum-machine beat of the single, "The Morning I Get to Hell." Throughout, sunny sing-alongs disguise darker themes, such as "Union Street," in which "a regular boy in the Reagan time" persuades a girl to steal pills from her abusive mom so they can escape it all, however briefly, by getting high "in that part of town that Jesus forgot."

It's fair to call it a singer-songwriter album, in that the songs have something to say -- about America and nighttime, and women and the boys who chase after them (and possibly about James Taylor). But with its breezy vocal harmonies, gentle melodies and casually psychedelic atmosphere, it's also deserving of notice by fans of bedroom Americana and those who've rediscovered the pleasures of the soft-rock ballad. Or even, I suppose, adventurers and grifters and other members of the damned human race who need a soundtrack for drifting down life's wide river.

 

The Duke & The King with T. Mitchell Bell. 10:30 p.m. Sat., Aug. 15. Club Café, 56-58 S. 12th St., South Side. $12. 412-431-4950 or www.clubcafelive.com

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