I’ve been following the musical adventures of Matt, Jim and Ethan for about 8 years now. Matt and I went to summer camp together, and I always knew this kid had serious vocal chops, and the personality to be a star. When the band Kings ceased to exist I lost track of Matt, his friends and his bands for a bit. Creeping up here and there, I’d see a music video or a show posting, and soon the name Union Duke started showing up on my newsfeed. In the summer of 2012 during North by Northeast, I decided to check them out and let’s just say I’ve been following them a lot more closely ever since.
Just over a year after the release of their debut full length, Bandits & Bridges, Union Duke has released their second album Cash & Carry. When I used to describe Union Duke to people, I’d typically always start by telling them that they had a “Mumford and Sons” set up because they have no formal drummer, just Will on bass drum, and Matt on the cymbals and tambourine, but I’ve stopped doing that because this band is so much more, and to say they’re like Mumford and Sons in any respect does them a great injustice. Blending folk, country, bluegrass and rock, there is something that every music lover can find to love about this band. Five-part harmonies, a seriously energetic live show, substance to their lyrics, multiple lead-vocalists – this new album even features some lead from Rob – it’s everything that modern country music lovers swear all the music they listen to sounds like, but the skeptics never seem to hear.
The album starts off strong with the track “Rollin’ on the Blue”, and also doubles as “interval training” to give you some good cardio. Now if you’re not into cardio or working out, here’s what I mean in laymen’s terms. The first song gets you dancing, and your heartbeat up, and then slows down a bit with the second song, “That Old Feeling”, and then shocks your system by picking back up with “A Little More” and slows down once again with “Highway Speed,” and keeps going in that same vain. The album also tends to alternate between Matt on lead and Ethan on lead, another great tactic to keep everything fresh. Another song off the album that I just had to give some special mention to is “Dime-Store Shirt.”
Union Duke is a band best seen live. But for those times in between where you’re having serious withdrawal, pick up their albums and pretend they’re standing in front of you. Trust me, I do it all the time.
In the meantime, you can catch them tonight at the CD Release party for their album Cash & Carry at the Legendary Horseshoe Tavern. Don’t forget to grab a copy of the album before you leave, you won’t regret it. If you can’t make this show, catch them as they tour across Canada in July and August.