The Key Studio Sessions: Matt Duke
For better or worse, South Jersey’s Matt Duke is a guy who sings and plays guitar, often acoustically. This makes his songs very direct, and his performances portable—he can work a traveling musician schedule like a five-piece band might not be able to. But this also means he’s got perceptions to fight; that of being yet another earnest guy who sings and plays acoustic guitar. His third LP, the new One Day Die, goes a long way toward breaking down that wall, exploring the range and potential that lies within his music. “Kangaroo Court,” which Helen Leicht recently opened our Songs In The Key of Philly stream with, tore up the room at Duke’s Key Studio Session, recorded on a Sunday afternoon in early May before a live studio audience (shoutout to Philly Local intern Nick Bookbinder for his production assistance). The song has a blaring guitar line and an urgent tempo that’s the antithesis of “open mic.” Another high point was the dense “M.L.T.,” which takes a Cheever-esque perspective on Mount Laurel Township, Duke’s home. He has a tremendous vocal instrument and an acrobatic range I’ve admired since seeing him tackle Jeff Buckley’s “So Real” at Philadelphia Folk Fest a few years back; his backing players, Nathan Barnett on drums and Sean Ferry on bass, build his sound out with skill and nuance. (Listen to their chilling rendition of “Love You Anymore.”) It’s a simple enough song when played by Matt Duke the individual, but when tackled by the Matt Duke Trio, it cuts hard and stays with you. Look for them to bring this vibe to Wiggins Park this summer when they take the stage at the XPoNential Music Festival.