I have a confession to make, I tried for a long time not to like King Dude. There was something about the man behind the Dude, TJ Cowgill, that rubbed me the wrong way. He’s a fashion designer with his own clothing line, an attention to ascetics that immediately appeals to someone like myself, he’s done duets with one of my favorite female artists, Chelsea Wolfe and those godamned Hollywood leading man good looks. How could I like this seemingly darling of the likes of Vice Magazine?! Well, a couple of things happened, I had to admit I really loved the music. We seemed to be cut from the same cloth in musical tastes. His latest, “Songs Of Flesh & Blood – In The Key Of Light”, is an album I’ve been spinning two or three times a week. I also recently had the opportunity to meet the man in person. I was taken aback by his humbleness, the easy-going, down-to-earthiness and sincerity of a man just trying to convey his art. At that moment I was truly born again into the Luciferian Light that is the cult of King Dude.
I’d imagine TJ is one of those artists that wears his influences on his sleeve. Not content to simply emulate those that came before, but to ingest, digest and make something new and completely your own. There’s nothing to do but a little track by track rundown. The album kicks off with “Black Butterfly”. This track is just pure Rock ‘n’ Roll. Everything I love about it just wrapped up into one song. TJ’s ever present flirtation with religion and the underlying “ohs” from the backing vocals make it a brilliant opener. Next up is “Deal With The Devil”, imagine Johnny Cash fronting the Bad Seeds, definitely one of my favorites. On it’s heels is “Death Won’t Take Me”, probably the best Nick Cave song that he never wrote. If you played me this track without Thomas’ immediately recognizable baritone, I’d swear it was Mr. Cave. Morose and beautiful, this is one I keep moving the needle back for. I wake up with this track in my head about 5 days a week.
“Rosemary” hits with pure Rocking bliss, like a song from a Tarantino film that was never made. Creeping up from the dark comes “A Little Bit of Baby Gonna Make Me Wanna Live Again”. Lo-fi white boy bluesy, it comes in fast, hits hard and makes you wonder what the fuck just happened. On it’s heels, “The Heavy Curtain” channeling Leonard Cohen (even though he ain’t dead). I can almost smell the stale nightclub cigarette air, checkered table clothes with a single red-glassed candle light, absolutely brilliant. “Desolate Hour” is another of my favorite tracks, Gothic, dark Americana ay it’s finest. This goes on my funeral playlist. Yea, it’s that good.
The combination of somber church organ and TJ’s mournful crooning, “I Don’t Wanna Dream Anymore” doubtlessly gets my vote for the most doleful track on the record. Hot on the heals is the Ennio Morricone infused spaghetti western romp of “Holy Water”. Nearing the end, “You Know My Lord” is a melancholy number, like a reincarnated Lee Hazlewood to remind us how dark things can really be. The album closer “Silver Crucifix” is pure King Dude. Predominantly TJ and his guitar, stripped bare, a man baring his soul through music.
With the few readers I’ve had, I’ve always tried to be as transparent as possible. I like what I like. The records I dislike, for the most part, I don’t see the reason in wasting my time. It’s so easy to get your “art” out there now, there’s relatively few records that are going to stand the test of time, regardless of genre. So bottom line, I really believe this will be an album I will continue to return to. It’s found a niche in my heart and on my turntable. Check it out and see if you feel the same.