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Album review: The Duke & the King's 'Nothing Gold Can Stay'

August 3, 2009 |  4:03 pm
Duke_king_240 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.

The Duke is Simone Felice, who until recently played drums in the Felice Brothers, a rollicking family band from upstate New York that released a terrific record earlier this year called "Yonder Is the Clock." The King is Robert "Chicken" Burke, an old multi-instrumentalist pal of Felice's who has worked with George Clinton and Sweet Honey in the Rock.

The pair recorded the 10 songs here in a cabin-turned-studio near Woodstock, and if their stay there involved lots of quiet evenings spent sipping stiff Irish coffees, then "Nothing Gold Can Stay" reflects it beautifully: This is hushed, deliberately paced acoustic music perfect for sitting around a fireplace pondering the coming thaw. "All our days are just so many waves in the wind," Felice observes in "If You Ever Get Famous," a supremely lovely line that hints at his other life as a novelist.

As pretty as this stuff is, though, it can get a little snoozy, as in "Union Street," where a maddeningly metronomic drumbeat slows things to a swamp-soul crawl. With his brothers, Felice has shown he's capable of injecting old-school roots music with fresh energy; without them, he tends to drag his feet.

-- Mikael Wood

The Duke & the King
"Nothing Gold Can Stay"
(Ramseur)
Two and a half stars
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