Dare Dukes
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Dare Dukes

Savannah, Georgia, United States | INDIE

Savannah, Georgia, United States | INDIE
Band Alternative Folk


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"Dave Mandl, WFMU-FM DJ; Music Editor for the Brooklyn Rail"

"...passionately sung, and loaded with inventive instrumental arrangements, surprising melodic twists, and multiple layers of wonderful, shimmery guitar work. And it rocks out, too. A joy to listen to."

--Dave Mandl, WFMU-FM DJ; Music Editor for the Brooklyn Rail - Dave Mandl, WFMU-FM DJ; Music Editor for the Brooklyn Rail

"Connect Savannah"

"...a wonderful new alt-rock CD....crunchy, earthy, sour-pop...a welcome blast of well-constructed, invigorating alt-rock. The record, which instantly evokes Sparklehorse and Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, is a triumph of sparseness."

Full Article:

"Seeing liabilities as opportunities"

Recent transplant Dare Dukes celebrates a wonderful new alt.rock CD

By Jim Reed
IS DARE DUKES A SAVANNAH MUSICIAN and songwriter? That seems like it would be an easy question to answer, but the reality is a bit more complex.

The ultra-indie artist —who celebrates the release of his latest DIY album this weekend at counterculture coffeehouse and performance venue The Sentient Bean— was raised in what he terms “the stark, sanitized and soulless” town of San José, Ca., yet moved to Minneapolis in his twenties. It was there he cut his teeth in the early ‘90s rock scene that also birthed the likes of Soul Asylum and the Jayhawks.

As frontman for the popular, noisy and edgy quartet The Penelopes, Dukes cultivated an enviable following in that city’s famously vibrant club and bar scene. However, after relocating to NYC, he took an extended break from music to concentrate on working in theater. He also struggled with a novel that would ultimately be rejected by almost 30 different publishers.

As a result, says Dukes, “I’d lost all ability to concentrate on the second book.”

Then, one day, without warning, his songwriting muse struck. “Bakersfield” —a standout track on his just completed CD Prettiest Transmitter of All— “popped out clean and perfect like a plum.”

“It was effortless,” he recalls with wonder. “It was like something invited me to watch the song being written. I thought, whoa, shit! I’ve been concentrating on prose at the expense of my music. I’d better start to open up spaces in my life for that thing to visit more often.”

Before long, the guitarist and singer began to gig out in public once more — eventually collaborating with two “super-expert friends” who happened to be professional musicians. Soon, they’d begun to record Dukes’ original material, easy as pie.

“Basically everything in my life stopped working for one reason or another,” he recalls. “Then, poof — there was music. Humans make dumb decisions sometimes, and not really showing up for my music wasn’t particularly bright.”

Dare Dukes
Imke Lass

Flash forward a bit: Dukes married in June of ‘07, and within a month, his wife was offered a job at SCAD. They came for a look-see and, “were blown away by Savannah’s strange blend of beauty, weirdness, ugliness and plain exoticism.”

The city proved “endlessly fascinating” to the couple, whom Dukes describes as “ready for an adventure.” Now, he spends the vast majority of his time here, flying back to NYC every couple of months to maintain a job in the non-profit sector. These return trips allow him to book Big Apple gigs with his aforementioned collaborators at hip Gotham venues like The Living Room.

He says the current, disheveled state of the music biz affords him more freedom and opportunity than he’s ever felt before as an indie artist. That, combined with the creative boost he’s received from the move, is fueling his renewed ambition.

“The music business as we once knew it is crumbling, or —depending on how you look at it— cracking open. The power centers of culture and commerce are seriously being challenged. It’s a bit of a frontier, to be sure. How long it’ll last, who knows? But bands are coming out of weird places. I’m not sure I would have taken a chance on Savannah if this weren’t the case.”

That said, Dukes has been around some pretty thriving scenes, and is keenly aware of the inherent, frequently dispiriting hindrances to be found in our original music community — which he notes is not due to a lack of standout local talent. Rather, he says, the problems lie with the city’s regressive ordinance restricting underage access to entertainment venues which serve alcohol, and what he perceives as a general lack of vision on the part of most club owners.

“Savannah is what it is,” he muses. “I’ve always tried to see apparent liabilities as opportunities. I’ve met some great musicians here, and they’re teaching me a lot about my songs that I didn’t know — which is fantastic and cool! The one gripe is that it’s been impossible so far to find a lineup that allows me to play the songs as I arranged them on the CD. But guess what? I wasn’t able to do that in NYC either.”


Here's Dare Dukes (with mandolinist Chris VanBrackle) at the Tantra Lounge's Open Mic Night -one of his only local performances to date- playing an original tune found on his new album:


It’s anyone’s guess what the live versions of songs from Prettiest Transmitter will sound like at this Sentient Bean date (Dukes’ official Savannah debut, since he doesn’t count two “under-the-radar solo gigs” which he did not actively promote). None of the backing musicians he has assembled for this show appear on the record — which was primarily tracked in NYC, with backing vocals and guitar overdubs added later in his Victorian District attic. However, if it even approximates the crunchy, earthy, sour-pop of the 31-minute album, this show may come across as a welcome blast of well-constructed, invigorating alt.rock, of a kind which has been noticeably absent from Savannah’s club and bar scene for some time.

The record, which instantly evokes comparisons to Dukes’ acknowledged influences Sparklehorse and Will Oldham’s alter-ego Bonnie “Prince” Billy (as well as contemporaries The Rosebuds and Deathray Davies), is a triumph of sparseness.

Its blend of softly-strummed rhythm guitar, minimalist keyboards, chiming electric guitar leads, driving —but understated— drums and the occasional brass instrument cameo, also recalls the output of a handful of seminal “college” artists of the ‘80s and ‘90s, like Barbara Manning and —at times— the softer and more wistful side of They Might Be Giants.

It’s a real sleeper.

For now, Dukes plans to juggle three different groups of backing musicians: one in Savannah, one in Athens and one in NYC. Though not an ideal situation, this will hopefully allow him to hit the road from time to time and play brief runs of gigs to help plug the CD, which he is also investing no small amount of money to have independently pitched to both radio and print media.

“I won’t be doing a traditional tour,” he says. “I don’t have the money or time, and I’m not convinced it’s the best way to promote a record anymore. I just want a beefier listenership. It’s be great to make my money back, but I’m not counting on it.”

http://www.connectsavannah.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A10709 - Connect Savannah

"Flagpole (Live Review)"

"Dukes, performing solo, charmed the listeners gathered around the stage. His songs made me want to just sit back in the comfy sofas and drift into a sleepy bliss. His Savannah roots show in his attention to detail and dreamlike melodies. Mr. Dukes, I might add, had a very awesome hat."

—Jordan Stepp, Flagpole (Athens, GA), October 20, 2008

http://flagpole.com/Music/LiveReviews/AdamKlein/2008-10-20 - Flagpole (Athens, GA)

"What Folks Are Saying about "Prettiest Transmitter of All""

"...showcases Dare Dukes’ ability to craft multi-faceted, emotional pop songs. Think Sparklehorse, with great pop hooks that blossom and expand with repeated listenings. The tone is alternately upbeat, ironic, and quirky. The production is understated and reveals itself slowly. I found at least three of these songs rattling around in my head days after my initial introduction. I love this cd, and consider it to be a thirty-minute pop masterpiece."

—Shannon Burke, author of _Black Flies_ - Shannon Burke, Author of _Black Flies_

"Buy This CD!"

"...no less than stunning. This is a play list you will listen to over and over again, finding fresh nuance with every listen."


Full Article:

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, I befriended a budding musician who was kind enough to donate his compositional skills to an experimental theater piece I was writing and choreographing. Sadly, the ancient VHS tape on which I had recorded this piece has disappeared. But I remember the music. It was haunting and beautiful, aided somewhat–if memory serves–by my own contribution of quasi-operatic screeching. It was the late eighties. There was a lot of screeching back then.

Fast forward to the present day and this musician has now recorded a CD, to be released on November 18th. When he sent it to me, I put it on, hit play, then got on with the task of making dinner with my husband. I expected the music to be good. But truthfully I was unprepared for what I heard.

Dare Dukes’ Prettiest Transmitter of All is no less than stunning. I’m no music critic so I lack the proper terminology to describe it, but here goes anyway. The melodies are gorgeous, inventive, and always emotionally resonant. The lyrics–mercifully audible–capture the surprising beauty in the most mundane–mostly suburban–environments. There’s no artful sneer or predictable lament over the cold alienation of life in the sprawl zone. The songs were clearly written by someone who grew up in suburbia and who, perhaps after getting some distance from it, can look at it afresh and find beauty–even nobility–there.

From “Sam’s Cathedral”:

Gather the children near the escalator.
That Level 3 is my honey’s dream.
Where is that coupon “super saver?”
In Sam’s Cathedral things are what they seem.

From “Lucas Goes to the Demolition Derby”

The maniacs get more cheers.
America finds her soul here.
Fury, Centurion.
–All that we hope to become
–Bonneville and Cavalier.

Dare has wisely kept the arrangements sparse and simple, nevertheless they sparkle. The compositions leave room for poignancy but never weigh down or descend into pathos. You’ll find yourself smiling but you won’t be sure just why. This is a play list you will listen to over and over again, finding fresh nuance with every listen.

Check out Dare’s website and get a free mp3 when you sign up for his email list. You can also get advance copies by emailing him at dd@daredukes.com. Enjoy it now. Thank me later.

http://www.laurenmclaughlin.net/wordpress/2008/11/10/buy-this-cd/ - Lauren McLaughlin Blog

"5 Stars--Wildy's World"

"Stunning. Gorgeous. A unique and unusual gem. Don't pass it by."


The best performers have at least some musical talent, a voice that is pleasant or interesting to listen to, great material and the ability to inhabit a song, soliloquy or role that transcends the stage or theater and calls us back to life through the performer/character's eyes. Many performers can do one or two of these things, but the transcendence of time and place is a magical talent that can not be taught or learned. Some people have it and the rest spend their lives struggling to figure it out. Meet Dare Dukes, a singer/songwriter based in Savannah, GA who plays and sings with the best of them, writes incredible songs, and brings characters, time and place to life so thoroughly through his songs you might forget even for a few minutes that it's a performance. The only other musician I've ever heard who could capture the brutal beauty of humanity in song in such precise tones is Randy Newman. Dukes' album, Prettiest Transmitter Of All is a series of aural portraits and soliloquys that capture restless souls, lost and misguided moments and the innate beauty and renewal of day to day life. It's stunning.

Prettiest Transmitter Of All opens with the Ballad Of Darius McCollum, a biography of the legendary New York City resident. McCollum, who suffers from Asperger's Syndrome, has been arrested numerous times over the years for attempting to steal trains or gain access off-limits portions of the New York City Subway system by posing as an employee or contract. The song depicts a man who loves trains, pure and simple. McCollum had memorized the system by the age of five and has posed as a NYCTA employee on numerous occasions (Interestingly enough the public's experience with McCollum posing as an employee has resulted in a much higher level of rider satisfaction than in dealing with actual NYCTA employees). Dukes has created a daring and apt musical picture that is part ode and part biograph.

Kick + Holler is a gorgeous composition built around acoustic guitar and strings. Lyrically Kick + Holler is a highly intelligent look at the human capacity to react badly to adverse situations. The melody is memorable and the song becomes something greater than the sum of its parts. Sam's Cathedral escaped me somewhat in that I apparently don't enough of the back story to get the context, but the composition here is ingenious. Dukes strips it down to just him and acoustic guitar until about halfway through. The rhythms he creates with just the guitar carry the song.

Lucas Goes To The Demolition Derby is a melancholy composition that is beautifully orchestrated. The title is a bitterly ironic as a metaphor for the inexperience and ineptness of young drivers. Dukes speaks on different levels to different listeners, depending on how deeply you listen. The ability to do just that through any medium is a profound gift, and Dukes uses it to full effect here. Bakersfield has a vaguely Michael Stipe feel to it, although it's not really Dukes' style to sound like anyone other than himself. Bakersfield highlights the human willingness at times to put ourselves into bad situations to recover something we've lost. From A Plane is a pretty little pop confection dressed up in acoustic and electric guitars, flutes and Dukes' enigmatic voice. The album closes with The Equipment Is Fine, a twisted look at people coping day-to-day with the darker aspects of humanity.

Dare Dukes is an abstract painter of human experience using the media of guitar and voice. He's found a voice in which he can frame various aspects of the human condition for others to view/hear. Dukes' viewpoint is perhaps not unique, but unusual enough to captivate the imagination. His ability to couch big ideas in small phrases and metaphors makes for a highly entertaining and thoughtful listen. His musical compositions are complex and unique and entirely fitting to the subject matter at hand. Prettiest Transmitter Of All is the output of a true American Primitive artist. His genius isn't so much in technique or in history but in the ability to tell you stories you already know from a perspective you've never considered. The fact that he does it so well is a bonus. Prettiest Transmitter Of All is a Certified Wildy's World Desert Island Disc. This is a unique and unusual gem folks. Don't pass it by.

Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)

- Wildy's World

"Best of 2008"

"Best of 2008"

http://www.snobsmusic.net/2008/12/best-of-2008-eps.html - Snob's Music Blog

"Atlanta Music Guide--4 Stars"

"4 STARS...his melodies are hook-laden but intricate. If forced to choose between a major or minor chord, Dare always chooses the less obvious and more interesting latter."

Full article:

by Al Kaufman

A musician always takes a big risk by opening his CD with his best song. Sure, he captures the listener's attention right away, but then he puts himself in the unenviable position of having to retain it.

Dare Dukes has no problem with this. Prettiest Transmitter of All opens with "The Ballad of Darius McCollum," a true story about a man with Asperger Syndrome, who was infatuated with the New York subway and actually drove a train after impersonating a conductor. With a rich and bouncy melody, and a voice that inkers on the brink of flatness, Dukes practically embodies McCollum. Lyrics like "Electric motors are the prettiest transmitters of all," allows us a glimpse inside McCollum's obsessed mind.

Yes, nothing else on this seven-song CD is as good as Darius, but a lot of stuff comes close. The Savannah-based singer, who got here by way of San Jose, Minneapolis, and New York, is certainly a fan of local favorite, Vic Chestnutt. Like Chestnutt, his melodies are hook-laden but intricate. If forced to choose between a major or minor chord, Dare always chooses the less obvious and more interesting latter. His voice, as mentioned earlier, barely hangs onto the melody, and, also like Chestnutt, he shows a deep affinity for the strangeness and eccentricities in people.

"Lucas Goes to the Demolition Derby," which sounds like it should certainly be an upbeat number, is sung as a contemplative ballad, adding weight to the smash-'em-up event; as do lyrics such as "God loves sons and brothers for their total lack of fear/And so to the derby we must go."

The people in Dukes' songs are not losers per se; they are just different, kind of like we all are. And Dukes loves them for that, which makes it very easy to in turn love Dukes.

http://www.atlantamusicblog.com/news/2008/12/cd-review-dare-dukes-prettiest-transmitter-of-all.html - Atlanta Music Guide


Prettiest Transmitter of All, November 18, 2008
Ghosts of Christmas, November 29, 2011
Thugs and China Dolls, January 17, 2012



Dare Dukes’ music is a striking combination of incisive intelligence and sweet, doleful hooks. Looking past the shiny surfaces of American life, the Savannah, GA-based singer-songwriter chronicles the everyday world, mining the margins for the eccentric characters and bizarre events that are at the heart of his music.

Born and raised in the exurb of San Jose, California, Dare grew up as the state blossomed into what he calls, “exit-ramp culture”—a maze of smoked-glass franchises and cookie-cutter subdivisions that took root along the vast network of interstate freeways. “Everyone knows the clichés about suburbia: It’s a stark, sanitized landscape, pretty much soulless,” Dare explains. “No one needs to remind us of that. I’m more interested in the poetry I see there–the weirdness, the anomalies, the resistance. Even in this unlikely grid you can find courageous people and precious things.”

Moving to Minneapolis in his twenties, Dare began playing music as bands like Soul Asylum, Babes in Toyland, and the Jayhawks were emerging to define that city’s post-Replacements sound. Influenced by seminal post-punk groups like the Pixies and Fugazi, and musical raconteurs like Tom Waits and Kurt Weill, Dare fronted the Penelopes, a frenetic quartet that was a fixture in the city’s rock clubs. After moving to New York City, Dare took a hiatus from music to focus on writing and theater, but began playing out again, backed by friends and expert musicians.

“America is a crazy, scary, and fascinating landscape,” Dare says. “The reality is a lot more interesting to me than what the nightly news depicts. The way I see it, it’s a place filled with eccentric characters, all on their own strange mission–some nuts, some saner than the rest of us. These missions, these people, they are what my music is about.”

Dare’s second album, Thugs and China Dolls, was recorded in Athens, GA. Featuring members of the Modern Skirts, of Montreal, Sufjan Stevens' band, and TV on the Radio, as well as a song produced by Jim White, the record is slated for release in January 2012.

Band Members