The Dutchess & The Duke

She’s the Dutchess, He’s the Duke album review by Rebecca Raber

The Dutchess and the Duke
She’s the Dutchess, He’s the Duke
PItchfork Album Rating: 8.2 out of 10

It’s hard to imagine if you were born, say, after 1965, but there was a time before the elder statesmen of rock’n’roll had become parodies of themselves. Before Mick Jagger was known for fathering supermodels’ babies and strutting across the stage like the world’s wrinkliest peacock; before Lou Reed’s dark, downtowner guise was obsessed with more dangerous pursuits than tai chi; before Bob Dylan was picking up establishment prizes like a Pulitzer and an Oscar and being impersonated by Cate Blanchett. Many will never know the thrill of hearing those artists in their original context, but the debut by Seattle duo the Dutchess & the Duke is a pretty good consolation prize. The 10-track album celebrates the time before those personalities became personas and those musical styles became canonical. The purity of spirit that Kimberly Morrison (the titular Dutchess) and Jesse Lortz (her childhood friend and Duke) bring to this spare collection of bluesy ditties makes them sound as strange and fresh as the Velvet Underground must’ve sounded to ears unaccustomed to their kind of menacing sexual deadpan, yet the duo injects their songs with just enough punk spirit to remind us of how raw those early records really were.

But She’s The Dutchess, He’s The Duke is not just a walk down memory lane. It’s ingredients are few— sexy, gritty male vocals, some sweetly sung co-ed harmonies, nimbly finger-picked acousti-blues guitar, restrained (if any) percussion— but its magic is palpable. Perhaps it’s due to the intimacy of recording on an 8-track, but though every song is reminiscent of one you’ve heard before, they have a sense of immediacy and audible grit. It actually sounds as if you’re hearing them from inside the studio as they are being taped. The vocals are recorded at such close range that they are almost tinny, and you can practically visualize Morrison and Lortz brushing their lips against the microphones as they sing. Instead of Pro Tools perfection, there is an organic grunginess to the production that comes from the voices bleeding into the guitars and the guitars, in turn, spilling into the brassy tambourines.

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The Dutchess and the Duke will be performing at The Walnut Room March 23rd w/ Special Guests the Moondoggies

The Dutchess & the Duke – “Mary” (unedited)

“She’s the Dutchess, He’s the Duke” is available for purchase here:

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