The Dutchess and the Duke 

Dec. 10, Sticky Fingerz

DEEPLY FELT: Lortz and Morrison, performing live somewhere else.
  • DEEPLY FELT: Lortz and Morrison, performing live somewhere else.

After two sets of understated coffeehouse-caliber strummers, it was a little difficult to keep my head up when Seattle's The Dutchess and the Duke took the stage. But my attention snapped right back into place upon hearing their powerful opener, “Hands,” which also appears as the first track on their new album “Sunset/Sunrise.”

Knee-to-knee guitarists Jesse Lortz and Kimberly Morrison create stark and deeply felt harmonies, not uncomfortable in the way that you might find barebones-confessional singer/songwriter work, but still disarmingly brazen. Their haunting lyrics address mortality, emotional desolation, ghosts and romantic antipathy — like less-optimistic “Rubber Soul” material that preserves trace elements of baroque-pop, but comes from the darker, Scott Walker-end of the spectrum.

The duo expands on the road to include minimalist percussion from Matt Williams, Melissa Elias on a Hofner violin bass in true McCartney spirit, and Jered Gummere on keys. Everyone lined up downstage in a fanned-out tableau: Morrison and Lortz sat facing each other in the center, Williams and Elias stood on one side, Gummere on the other. The spread mimicked something like a family band of pickers appearing on “The Porter Wagoner Show,” cheesy grins traded for forlorn looks of existential isolation.

Lortz's ballast vocals verged on a twangy Lou Reed impression, while Morrison wailed heartfully, and at times with such horsepower she tilted her head back from the microphone in a move like a gospel soloist exercising merciful restraint. Lortz did most of the simple, but pop-perfect guitar work. Morrison fumbled the arpeggio beginning of “Never Had a Chance” without much disruptive consequence, and kept apologizing (presumably to Lortz) throughout the song.

When a request to the Maestro (Sticky Fingerz's sound man) to lower the lights went unanswered, Lortz's quip “I guess the Maestro must be kickin' it,” won over laughter. Perhaps a little humor was in order to soften the blow, because the moment was followed by a completely devastating and stripped-down rendition of “I Am just a Ghost” from their first album, which concluded with an impeccably harmonized refrain that made my scalp tingle.

If you find yourself disenchanted with effete, navel-gazing acoustic guitar dudes and endless throngs of Dylan impersonators, the Dutchess and the Duke are a welcome renewal of the genre. With overtly poetic sensibilities artfully framed in folk, their records occasionally sound at times like Wes Anderson set pieces. But their live performance is driving, soulful and impressively potent.


From the ArkTimes store


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Natalie Elliott

  • The state of Arkansas hip-hop

    New kids on the block.
    • Jul 4, 2012
  • "Conlon Nancarrow: Virtuoso of the Player Piano" at LRFF

    Of all the famous Arkansas musicians you can name, it's all right if you're not familiar with avant garde composer Conlon Nancarrow.
    • Jun 2, 2012
  • 'Teddy Bear' at the Little Rock Film Festival

    "Teddy Bear" opens with the brooding, hulking figure of Dennis (Kim Kold) standing in a stark, cold-tinted bathroom and staring at himself in the mirror. He says nothing and his expression is chiseled into what can best be described as a soft-eyed grimace. It's practically his only expression, and one of many scenes where Dennis contemplates the mirror.
    • Jun 1, 2012
  • More »

Most Shared

  • So much for a school settlement in Pulaski County

    The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Cynthia Howell got the scoop on what appears to be coming upheaval in the Pulaski County School District along with the likely end of any chance of a speedy resolution of school desegregation issues in Pulaski County.
  • Riverfest calls it quits

    The board of directors of Riverfest, Arkansas's largest and longest running music festival, announced today that the festival will no longer be held. Riverfest celebrated its 40th anniversary in June. A press release blamed competition from other festivals and the rising cost of performers fees for the decision.
  • Football for UA Little Rock

    Andrew Rogerson, the new chancellor at UA Little Rock, has decided to study the cost of starting a major college football team on campus (plus a marching band). Technically, it would be a revival of football, dropped more than 60 years ago when the school was a junior college.
  • Turn to baseball

    When the world threatens to get you down, there is always baseball — an absorbing refuge, an alternate reality entirely unto itself.

Latest in Music Reviews

  • Cher in North Little Rock

    March 28, Verizon Arena
    • Apr 3, 2014
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers at Verizon

    The Red Hot Chili Peppers took a slightly different musical path to its May induction into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame than most of their fellow honorees.
    • Oct 31, 2012
  • Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Sept. 30

    The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra opened its season Saturday night with a return visit by the 28-year-old violin virtuoso Augustin Hadelich, who had appeared with the orchestra in the Beethoven concerto two years ago.
    • Oct 3, 2012
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »


2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31  

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: On "Beyond Scared Straight"

    • I need to find a scared straight program for my 14 yr old daughter here…

    • on July 20, 2017

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation