- by Jim Harris Rating:6 Release Date:2016-05-06 Label: Bella Union
I’ve always liked The Duke Spirit but never crossed the line to love them and was never quite sure why until this album, Kin. I bought into the group back in the early 00s and recall reviewing their first album about the same time I reviewed a Cowboy Junkies album and found many similarities: Well-crafted songs, strong rhythm section, neither band seemed afraid to venture somewhere different musically, but what overwhelmingly was evident was what instrument was in charge - the lead singer’s voice. Margo Timmon’s voice was such a factor at the several concerts I saw by the Cowboy Junkies that her voice would fill the auditorium and, I guess it was her brother, the lead guitarist, would even play the songs sitting down.
Outside of the first two tracks on Kin most all the other tracks have a feel that the musicians could play while sitting down as well. ‘Blue and Yellow Light’ and ‘Sonar’ start the album off with the promise that The Duke Spirit had finally gotten their game on with the sort of dreampop/shoegaze elements all coming together to have them building up to their breakout album finally. Then the boil once again kicks into a simmer on such tracks as ‘Wounded Wing’ and ‘Hands’ and then it appears that the energy and power of a bombastic rhythm section and shimmery, fuzzy guitars start getting overwhelmed by the overly-clever, overly-deliberate song structure that calls a whole lot of attention to Liela Moss’s beautiful, seductive, and powerful voice more than any other instrument.
This is not to say there aren’t a couple of strong songs that follow. ‘Here Comes the Vapor’ is one of their better executed songs, but for the most part, this band continues to go their merry way with each and every song and while this adds an artsy, clever feel to the album, it also opens it up to criticism of yet another unfocused effort. The final two tracks, ‘200 Horses Run’ and ‘Follow’ are as pedestrian and sedate, as the first two tracks are energized and bombastic. Liela, like Margo Timmons, seems to stifle the other instruments to some degree. This may or may not explain their rather lukewarm acceptance as a band in general. So once again I like The Duke Spirit, but can’t take that any higher.
the band are not on Bella Union, thats for starters...