I’ve always felt a certain unashamed bias towards Seattle’s newest occult folk export in the shape of King Dude ever since the day I discovered I share a name with that fascinatingly haunting voice behind the project, TJ Cowgill. Being a huge fan of neo-folk music myself this was also a bonus as much of King Dude’s sound is shaped by the pioneers of that scene such as Death in June, Current 93 and the ilk, or well it was anyway, as after listening to 'Burning Daylight' it’s hard not to notice the remarkable progression musically our man in black has made since 'My Beloved Ghost'. They’ve basically broadened the spectrum from a no frills acoustic neo-folk act into something altogether more inspired and distinct with 'Burning Daylight'. Infact the neo-folk influence has been hugely toned down in favour of something much more dark and apocalyptic, with a veneer of dark and sarcastic humour to it all. Gone are the catchy acoustic folk ditties such as “Spiders in her Hair” and “Big Blue Eyes” in favour of gloomy, occult and whiskey soaked gothic Americana with significantly more in common with Johnny Cash, Swans and Nick Cave than it does Death in June or Sol Invictus.
|King Dude Bandcamp|
Drawing his influences from ‘The Great Disappointment’, a period in the nineteenth century when a bunch of lunatics awaited the return of Jesus, and surprisingly ended up distinctly disappointed when the asshole didn’t honour his appointment, the album is expectedly involved with Christianity. “Holy Land” begins proceedings with a heavily martial drumbeat and is awash with the same obscure dissonance you’d hear from Swans, indeed I can even a slight Michael Gira influence in Cowgill’s vocals as he delivers his earth shaking baritone through a dense film of reverb. He’s always loved his reverb, and 'Burning Daylight' is again, drowned in it. It adds huge waves of atmosphere to the esoteric subject matter 'Burning Daylight' is based upon. The huge Swans influence again rears its head again in “I’m Cold” and also the magnificently morbid “Jesus in the Courtyard” which is essentially what Johnny Cash would have sounded like if he decided to take on a booming Gira-influenced form of no-wave. To say this track is stunning is somewhat of an understatement, it projects visions of an altogether disturbing, underground black and white 50’s America all through a thick veil of cigarette smoke. “He got the devil around his finger, Jesus around his neck, none wants him in this world or the fucking next” he bellows with a genuine sonority.
The likes of “Barbara Anne” and “Lorraine” lighten the mood a bit with their more romantic theme, for there’s only so many doom laden dirges the mind can take in one sitting, and although “Lorraine” for me is arguably filler material. “Barbara Anne” is another fantastic tune delivered with devastating simplicity with its one-two boot heel kick and whiskey soaked croak. Variation is key for albums such as these and it’s one attribute Cowgill nails right square between the eyes. No two songs are sound the same and in this genre of music that’s a fucking miracle. “Vision in Black” harks back to 'Love' and with its exceedingly infectious drumbeat resonating beneath a simple yet catchy guitar line with those heavily reverbed vocals just amounts to another song which you’ll find hard to get out of your head, and again the same could be said for the black humour of “I Know You’re Mine”. Hell there’s even room for a few shoegaze influences to seep through in “My mother was the Moon” in the delicate, glistening spangle of its guitar work and bliss laden vocals which unless the Dude suddenly lost his ballsack, I guess done by an external unnamed female party.
|King Dude Facebook|
The highlight of the album though must lie within the gloriously melancholic and over the top adieu to all of life’s ills in “Lord, I’m Coming Home”, a death laden serenade into the afterlife delivered with superb conviction in his deep, gravelly husk and almost Andrew Eldritch-esque howl on top of a blanket of angelic synths and bluesy acoustic guitar. At face value its depressing as fuck, but in reality its effect is one of those tracks where it’s drink in and sorrows out, glasses up and curtains down, a more than fitting end for a journey which began swathed in the darkness of Satan and eventually emerges into the light. When I say I could imagine this track coming off a Nick Cave album I’m speaking the truth, it has all the swagger and guile one would expect from our friend down under, and if that’s not a compliment then I guess nothing is. Steeped in dry humor and a sinister smirk, shrouded in stale cigarette smoke and swirling bourbon all delivered with a portentous drone, 'Burning Daylight' is a breath of fresh air into the neo-folk genre, but to be fair it’s far above and beyond most of what’s labeled as neo-folk these days. Plus, what the fuck is not awesome about an artist with a name like King Dude anyway?