The Dutchess & the Duke – Sunset/Sunrise

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Rating: ★★★★½

When The Dutchess and the Duke burst onto the scene last year, creating havoc for every person using Microsoft Word, we couldn’t have been happier.  Their acoustic duets recalled The Rolling Stones, but with a little bit more with portrayed in the lyrics. Now, they return, with their second album, Sunset/Sunrise, willing to do it all again.

“Hands” opens the album, and it’s clear that the sun has gone down on this duo.  Lyrical messages hint at dark times for the narrator, but as the chorus bursts through, you see the same formula from the hits off their first album. Sure, there is a hint of guitar soloing, but it’s just enough to show hints of change, without altering the game completely.

“Scorpio” exists as one of the finest moments on the album; you would call it the brightest were it not for the lyrical imagery.  Flourishes of orchestration (a violin perhaps) fittingly add a bit of melancholic tone to the tune, hinting at the gravity which exists at the heart of the song.  So when you come across “Living This Life” you can see that the distance referenced in “Scorpio” has finally come to sit in with the band.  Everything about this album seems to exemplify a distance, be that with family or lovers. As the guitar meanders, seemingly over a horizon afar, you can feel the emotional change of the group.

As you hit the album’s almost title track, “Sunrise/Sunset,” the picture of a shift in the writing process has come to complete fruition.  Kimberly Morrison has taken over vocal duties for this song, as well as “When You Leave My Arms” Although her smoky vocals are a perfect accompaniment to Jesse Lortz, these two songs demonstrate that she has a knack for pulling every bit of emotion out of her songs.  It’s a refreshing twist to Sunset/Sunrise, clearly deepening the repertoire of the group, rather than labeling them as re-hashers of classic rock.

Unlike the last album, which hit you in the face real hard up front, the new record seems extremely even. From start to finish, there seems to be some sort of focal point for the group that allows for such balance, which ultimately might make this album stronger than its predecessor.  And you come to the perfect ending with “The River.”  The song is treated by some soft touches of piano, perhaps providing it with a touch of the epic ending.  Ultimately, this song serves as a summary for the album.  Questioning one’s existence, and one’s relationships to loved ones, all wrapped up in one final tune.  Perhaps it was written for the soon to be child of Lortz, who, like us, will look on Sunset/Sunrise with pride, longing, and perhaps a little bit of reflection.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/10-The-River.mp3]

Download: The Dutchess and the Duke – The River [MP3]

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