The Dutchess is Kimberly Morrison and the Duke is Jesse Lortz. The two have been playing together for years, but it wasn’t until they struck out on their own in The Dutchess And The Duke that their creative music abilities came full circle. She’s The Dutchess And He’s The Duke is an album mixing lo-fi folk elements (but not too much so) with 70s folk melodies.
The album title is fitting for the group, being a male/female duo. Hinting of decades-past, like label-mates Arthur & Yu, the acoustic guitar has a hefty strum and the mix of hand-claps and tambourine live true to folk pop. The album opens with the immediately catchy Duke fronted “Reservoir Park”, full with both hand-claps and tambourine slaps. The acoustic guitar, as quickly becomes apparent throughout the album, has a deep sound thanks to hefty strums.
The Dutchess And The Duke crafts songs that blend the sounds of unique acts like Tilly And The Wall with those of power duos like White Stripes. Where he took the lead in “Reservoir Park”, the following tune brings the two members together for harmony vocals on “Out Of Time”. While he takes the lead more than she, Morrison does make her voice prominent throughout the album, generally more as a harmony part to Lortz or blending in a repeat lyric or alternate lyric to Lortz’s lead.
They’re not without their unique songs or their vulgarity, as found on “Strangers”: You fucked me in the phone booth / You know you took me by surprise… Maybe we’re not strangers after all.
Like opening tune “Reservoir Park”, tunes like “The Prisoner” and “Back To Me” act as a major high point on She’s The Dutchess And He’s The Duke. Many tunes fit the label, but these are the most prominent and catchy of the bunch. “The Prisoner” sits on the darker side of folk and the flute that enters about a third of the way in adds to the song’s dark beauty. “Back To Me” initially draws comparison to “Hurricane” by Dylan. There are similarities both in guitar and Lortz’s vocal pattern—he even goes as far as sounding Dylan-esque.
The flute returns in “You Can Tell The Truth, Now”, a tune that’s a bit on the softer side thanks to the lack of full guitar strums. Both members tone back their usual vocals for something a bit quieter. “I Am Just A Ghost” is the climax song on the album. It’s slow, but there are moments where the guitars dive into double-time – it’s here in double-time, when the lo-fi folk-y guitar solo bursts through the speakers, then immediately after, when the vocals bust out, that the song reaches anthem-like power. The duo belts out the title in lengthy words: And I… am… just… a ghost…
“Armageddon Song”, contrary to the title, is the cool-down track. But it does enjoy a moment in the sun with catchy, upbeat guitar parts and a little whistling too. She’s The Dutchess And He’s The Duke is another winning album for the newly formed Sub Pop subsidiary label Hardly Art. Hardly Art proves they know what they’re doing—both Arthur & Yu and Le Loup have pumped out phenomenal albums of late and the label has done it again with The Dutchess And The Duke.
This review was originally published July 7, 2008 on the old version of FensePost.
The Dutchess And The Duke: Reservoir Park [mp3]
[audio:090224_the_dutchess_and_the_duke_-_reservoir_park.mp3|titles=Reservoir Park|artists=The Dutchess And The Duke]
Hardly Art [CD, 2008]
1. Reservoir Park
2. Out Of Time
3. Ship Made Of Stone
5. The Prisoner
6. Back To Me
8. You Can Tell The Truth, Now
9. I Am Just A Ghost
10. Armageddon Song