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King Dude – Burning Daylight

King Dude Burning Daylight

The American folk act King Dude — the brainchild of T.J. Cowgill — has exponentially exploded in popularity over the past few years. His first releases, My Beloved Ghost and Tonight’s Special Death — on the American Bathetic Records and Italy’s Avant! respectively — remained fairly straightforward, yet at the same time created a dark atmospheric beauty within that simplicity. With his sophomore full-length, Love, while maintaining much of the sound from the previous albums, Cowgill evolved further, adding more of a baritone vocal style at times, and certainly more of a gospel-like tone as well as other elements that showcased something of a maturation as an artist. However, with this latest release, Burning Daylight, Cowgill has gone even further and has created a very unique piece of art that I would go so far as to say is a modern-day masterpiece of neofolk from a truly American perspective. While his previous releases have a sound that has all-too-obviously been influenced by a generalized American folk style, Burning Daylight seems more varied in that it covers all the bases of the traditional American folk sound from Americana to country, blues, and even a taste of old-fashioned 1950s rock n’ roll.

If I was to describe Burning Daylight with one word, it would be haunting. Starting from the introduction of the album, the listener is greeted with the sound of an eerie synth that is reminiscent of a church organ complete with the sounds of sirens and the words of a man whom seems to know that death is at his door, a man whose end has come. This introduction sets the tone for the following ten tracks, all of which inevitably lead to a finale that plays off the final words spoken in the intro. Every element featured in this album contains a truly haunting component, from the vocal patterns and style, to the echoed pulsating percussion, down to the chilling effect of the guitar work. This atmospheric impression is only furthered when noticing the exceptionally dark lyrics which contain elements of mourning, loss, faith or lack thereof, devotion and obsession, and a sincere acceptance of death.

Thomas Cowgill | Credit: Maria Louceiro

Thomas Cowgill | Credit: Maria Louceiro

The songs off this album all tend to sound much different from the last and come together to create a fairly diverse work, yet all of the tracks contain a similar tone. For example, the song “Holy Land” gives the listener a taste of reverberated pounding percussion, an echoing, at times evocative electric guitar, and sinister baritone vocals; songs like “I’m Cold” and “I Know you’re Mine” give the listener an entirely different sound with a very unique 1950s-esque rock n’ roll sound. The album also features a track that I would go so far as to compare to some of the songs written by Johnny Cash with “Barbara Ann”, which seems to be a romance ballad of a man professing his devotion to a lover. “Jesus in the Courtyard” contains a very bluesy sound as well as the stirring reverberated percussion that is prevalent throughout the album. With “Vision in Black”, Cowgill seems to have created a plugged-in version of his older material with the basic strummed chords, only electrified with a faint bombastic layer in the background. Cowgill seems to have not forgotten his roots in regards to his older material, an impression that becomes obvious by the time the epic finale, “Lord, I’m Coming Home”, begins to play; a ballad of a man whom knows that death is standing at his shoulder, which is a thematic idea that reminds one of his previous works, yet features that trademark foreboding synth line and baritone vocals.

Many of the songs on the album feature the gospel tone from Love, but, as I said in my one-word description, are incontrovertibly — you guessed it — haunting. Burning Daylight very much reminds me of the hymns of a Luciferian church deep in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains or the ghost of an American occultist imprisoned within the earthly chains of a chapel or an antebellum-era Southern mansion. With Burning Daylight, the artist was able to maintain the sound that so many have grown to love and has managed to expand it further, showcasing both real talent and artistic evolution whilst staying true to his roots. If you are a fan of neofolk and are interested in hearing it from a truly American perspective, then this is the album for you.

Track List:

01) Introduction
02) Holy Land
03) Barbara Anne
04) I’m Cold
05) Vision in Black
06) Jesus in the Courtyard
07) I Know you’re Mine
08) My Mother was the Moon
09) Lorraine
10) You can Break my Heart
11) Lord, I’m Coming Home

Rating: 5/5
Written by: Conor Wrigley
Ván (Germany) / Ván85 / 12″ LP, CD
Dais Records (United States) / DAIS039 / 12″ LP, CD
Neofolk / Folk