2008, Sawmill Records
Duke Michaels brings a unique mix of country and rock and roll to the table; a modern take on old country attitude and grit. A self-proclaimed warrior and storyteller, Michaels attacks songwriting with the tenacity of a trail rider and the grace of a horseman. His unique blend of rock and country is a smooth medicine answer to the ills of southern rock. The pioneer and modern day gunslinger (six string variety) offers up two co-debut albums, Welcome To DM Country and Purple Sky Outlaw on his own Sawmill Records label. According to Michaels, "The truth is in the tracks".
Welcome To DM Country opens with country/blues/rock hybrid Backwater Song. This is an immediately memorable tune with haunting violin cadences and a dark, brooding bass/guitar bed. Easy To Love continues on the same road, with some very sharp guitar work. Every Bit A Lady is a standout track for Michaels; a reverential ode to a significant other. Good Got Better brings a little bit of honky-tonk into the mix, swirling around a punk rhythm section. Other highlights include Five Years From Sundown, I Will Provide, I Love This Job and Angel.
Purple Sky Outlaw strips things down to Michael, his acoustic guitar, harmonica and the occasional acoustic support. There's a Dylan-esque atmosphere here, and Michaels does his best to lend lyrical gravity to some stirring songs. Bob's New Cup Of Brew sounds like a spirit of renewal. Horse Starts Running is an urgent musical missal on getting with the necessity of the moment. One Step At A Time is a classic country love song that is reminiscent of George Hamilton's If You Don't Know I Ain't Gonna Tell You. A Little Too Fast is a sweet country ode ready for a soundtrack. Michaels also covers Blues For My Father in a rendition that might be a classic on its own. Other highlights include Big Sky Town, Little Ol' Star, One Race To Run and Champion In My Heart.
Duke Michaels is an intriguing figure in the country world. He doesn't walk the Nashville line of pop-ready songwriters churning out hayseed bubblegum pop for the CMT set. Michaels writes thoughtful and thought-provoking songs full of real grit, love, loss and determination. He is a musical cousin of actor/singer Paul Gross. Both have voices that are slightly left of center and full of character, and both write in a country style that is out of vogue but nonetheless vital. Welcome To DM Country is a strong offering as a co-debut and should do much to establish Michaels as an artist of import. Purple Sky Outlaw, stripped down it is shines as a diamond in the rough. It's a thing of beauty to behold and solidifies Michael's position as a great songwriter and performer. You'll want Welcome to DM Country in your collection. You need Purple Sky Outlaw.
Welcome To DM Country - 4 Stars (Out of 5)
Purple Sky Outlaw - 5 Stars (Out of 5)
You can learn more about Duke Michaels at http://www.dukemichaels.com/ or www.myspace.com/dukemichaels. You can purchase a copy of Welcome to DM Country at www.cdbaby.com/cd/dukemichaels. You can purchase a copy of Purple Sky Outlaws at www.cdbaby.com/cd/dukemichaels2.