The Dutchess & the Duke
While Jesse Lortz and Kimberly Morrison have both done time in some of Seattle's most rough-and-tumble garage punk combos, the two found themselves receiving international acclaim in 2008 for their debut album as the Dutchess & the Duke, in which they turned their attention to acoustic guitars and a cool but honest folk-rock-influenced sounds that recall the work of Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, and the Rolling Stones. Lortz and Morrison first met in high school, where they shared an enthusiasm for beer, junk food, and punk rock, and in time both became figures on the Pacific Northwest garage punk scene. Lortz was a member of the "deconstructionist R&B band" the Flying Dutchmen, and in 2002 he recruited Morrison to play organ with the group. When the Flying Dutchmen called it quits in 2004, Lortz formed the Fe Fi Fo Fums and started an independent label, Boom Boom Castle Records, while Morrison did time with the Intelligence, the Fallouts, and the Unnatural Helpers. Lortz and Morrison found themselves playing together again in a short-lived act called the Sultans, and were inspired to start writing material that would take their music in a new direction celebrating pop music's past. Calling themselves the Dutchess & the Duke ("the Dutchess" being a nickname Morrison picked up in the Flying Dutchmen), the pair worked on their harmonies and began recording material at Magical Basement Studios, a modest eight-track facility in Seattle run by Bryan Standridge of the Suspicions. With some help in the studio from Donnie Hilsdat and Karen Mitchell, the Dutchess & the Duke released their first 7" single on Boom Boom Castle, "Reservoir Park" b/w "Mary," in 2007, and several months later the Sub Pop-distributed Hardly Art label signed the duo to a record deal. Their first full-length album, She's the Dutchess, He's the Duke, was released in June 2008 and received enthusiastic reviews; Lortz and Morrison soon took the act on the road, with additional accompaniment from friends Ruben Mendez and Oscar Michel. The band releasedSunset/Sunrise the following year.
© Mark Deming /TiVo
© Mark Deming /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released July 8, 2008 | Hardly Art
Plenty of bands have embraced the Rolling Stones as a key influence over the years, but much of the debut album from the Dutchess & the Duke suggests this is a new milestone -- a band that has built an entire act around reworking "Sitting on a Fence." Granted, there's a lot more to the Dutchess & the Duke's formula than that, but at their core they're playing rock & roll with just a couple of acoustic guitars and voices, stripping the whole business down to its most basic elements, and their melodic style and their bursts of lyrical insouciance often suggest Mick and Keith in their quieter moments in the 1960s (think Between the Buttons without the gingerbread). Even if the similarity isn't exactly coincidental (and it may well be), the truth is that Jesse Lortz and Kimberly Morrison write this sort of song nearly as well as the Stones did in the mid-'60s, which is to say they do it very well, and while the arrangements are simple in the extreme (acoustic guitars, some hand percussion in the background, and not much else), they also bring out the strength of the melodies with an easygoing, no-nonsense sincerity that's winning. The same can be said for Lortz and Morrison's harmonies, which are rough but committed and just right for this brand of folk-rock with attitude. At a bit less than 31 minutes, She's the Dutchess, He's the Duke doesn't go on long enough to wear out its welcome, and a few more tunes would be welcome, but even the short running time fits in with the duo's "less is more" attitude, and this is one of the more satisfying debut albums to come down the pike in 2008. Note to Lortz and Morrison -- maybe you could try a tribute to "Out of Time" for your production-intensive follow-up? © Mark Deming /TiVo