The Duke & The King – “The Morning I Get To Hell”
Prior to a few weeks ago, if you had asked me when was the last time I had either seen a Whoopee cushion or eaten Pop Rocks, I would have guessed 1996. I was 8 then, and that seems like it was probably about the time when boys in my class would have outgrown slipping one onto girls’ chairs and finally tired of trying to prove that the other could be mixed with Coca-Cola without any lethal side effects.
But one Friday afternoon last summer while I was interning at music mag Paste, the press kits that came through the office were particularly playful; one included Whoopee cushions with a group’s name stamped across the front and another had several packages of Pop Rocks.
So when Simon Felice (of previous Playlist band The Felice Brothers and now also of The Duke & The King) wandered into the office looking for our studio, he found me with my elbow propped up next to a Whoopie cushion while Pop Rocks crackled in my mouth. He shook my hand while I attempted to swallow the candy and stammer my name.
I shouldn’t have been too concerned about what kind of first impression I made. Felice and the rest of The Duke & The King are as unpretentious as they come, and the group’s debut album, Nothing Gold Can Stay, certainly reflects of this. Its 10 folksy tracks jump from charming looks at love (“Water Spider,” “Summer Morning Rain”) to more poignant subjects. “If You Ever Get Famous” is a warning to always remember what’s important in life regardless of what may get in the way. The band shows its darker side on “Union Street,” a fond yet pointed look at growing up that blends into the grating music of “Lose My Self,” which features the echoing, repeated line, “It makes me want to lose myself.”
Despite the various tones embodied by the group’s songs, Felice’s voice is always smooth and clear and his lyrics are straightforward. The band’s name pays homage to the con men in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and this is a fitting tribute, as each of its songs have a comforting, old-fashioned feel with just the right amount of creativity and adventure to make it a classic.
— By Executive Editor Ani Vrabel