Duke Special - My Villain Heart
Hailing from Belfast, Duke Special (Pete Wilson to his mother) produced a beautiful debut EP in 2003 that combined intricate instrumentation with bittersweet love songs and a clear, distinctive style. It just seemed a matter of time before a major signed him up. Though this hasn't happened yet, he does now have a nice roster of celebrity fans - Jack White, Steve Earle and Aqualung are avowed fans of the man. Unperturbed by his lack of record deal, he has released another clutch of songs as an EP.
The first thing you notice with Duke Special's music is the wide variety of influences at work - the opening track (Last Night I Almost Died) gives an occasional nod to Motown and soul but the following songs covers those tracks with a delicate piano song which a young Tom Waits wouldn't have denied. What takes time to sink in, is how good these songs are - the casual listener may find the unusual instrumentation (like a banjo on the verse of Some Things...) distracting at first, but this also makes these songs improve with repeated listenings. Wake Up Scarlett should endure him to fans of Rufus Wainwright (for whom he also opened recently) with grand piano plinking and a (good) taste for Vaudeville.
Although maybe not as instantaneous as his first effort, My Villain Heart proves that Duke Special is indeed a special talent but maybe one record labels are going to struggle to harnass into their grand marketing schemes. Thoroughly recommended.
The CD can currently only be bought at his website.