duke and dawn
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duke and dawn

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"Athens duo Duke & Dawn find success in their organic roots By Kimberly E. Mock"

It's a difficult thing, trying to be something you're not. Often, you run into the old problem of hating the very thing you're trying to become. That's the lesson Athens husband and wife duo Duke & Dawn learned a few years back, when the traditional country outfit tried to make their music more marketable by incorporating more modern elements. The results, as guitarist-singer Duke Davis explains, weren't exactly stellar. "We were trying to find some way to do something we thought we were supposed to be doing to be more marketable or whatever. We thought, 'This is just ridiculous.' It got to be where we hated the whole thing," he says. "We said, 'Let's just do what we think is fun.'" What the duo thought was fun was writing and performing traditional country songs that recall the music of greats like George Jones and Conway Twitty. Both had grown up on traditional country. Duke even had written a traditional country song with his father. The duo began attending local bluegrass jams known as "pickin' parties," performing their socalled organic country for their fellow musicians and fans. It was at last the right choice. "All of the sudden, music got fun again," Duke Davis says. "It's been a natural progression from there." With their new sound in line, the two began performing as often as they could in an attempt to spread their sound. "We were just doing everything we could possibly do just to circulate it and get a feel for, 'Is this going to resonate with people? We're sure having fun,'" says Dawn Davis, who shares vocal duties with Duke. Duke & Dawn began writing songs that visit the traditional country themes of "heartbreak and drinking," songs Duke Davis says recall the country music of the 1960s and 1970s, while still remaining relevant to modern audiences. "We're not trying to be retro, really. We're not country retro," says Duke Davis. "That's just what we like to listen to. That's what we like to play." Apparently, its also what others like to hear. After the group's demo made its way into the hands of Joe Silva, host of WUGA's weekly music program "Just Off the Radar" and an organizer of the Athens 441 music series at the Morton Theatre, Duke & Dawn were invited to perform at Athens 441 in September 2004, where the group shared the stage with fellow Athens acts Japancakes and The High Caliber. Through their regular pickin' performances, Duke & Dawn also linked up with Athens Sound, a local promotions and record label that promotes bluegrass and country artists. They hope to record an album with the label by the end of the year. And while the two aren't looking to be the next big thing on country music radio, they are at last content that they are where they need to be: Writing and performing traditional, organic country. "We have a lot to look forward to now," says Dawn Davis. "It's kind of nice when it works out that way - that you decide to do something you love and people like it. I think people can pick up on that." - Athens Banner-Herald Marquee


Discography

Duke and Dawn Live at the Morton Theatre - EP
"How Can I Miss You (If You Won't Go Away)" - single

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Bio

If it’s been said once, it’s been said a million times: country music just ain’t country anymore. Well, that all depends on where one looks. Duke&Dawn (no relation to Tony Orlando, thank you) have it in their heads that they aren’t alone in feeling unsatisfied with the typical fare of what goes for country music, and long for real, old-fashioned, classic and traditional country-folk music, and that, as the saying goes (sort-of), If you play it, they will come. Between the two of them, Duke&Dawn have covered quite a bit of ground. Dawn’s early start in musical theatre led her into forming her own groups, such as the popular folk band River’s Been, and the somewhat manic Vein. Duke’s earlier ventures were a bit more in the (ahem) hard-rock category with the long-suffering Trinery (Rush wannabe’s, no doubt) and writing and recording for MTV’s The Real World; however, Duke is also a degree-holding, university-trained classical guitarist. Duke and Dawn joined forces to form Jasper Gate, a lush, pop-infused acoustic group, and took their music all over the country (and even into Canada!). Colonel Bruce Hampton, October Project, Vigilantes of Love, Sixpence None the Richer and Third Day are some of the many groups they have played alongside. But here, as just Duke&Dawn, they’ve found their true voice and calling, writing and performing the South’s “Other Blues Music,” which, as any true devotee can attest to, is bluegrass, folk, and country all rolled into one. Having been featured on radio programs such as “Once in a Blue Moon,” and “Athens 441,” as well as features on NPR, Duke&Dawn are finding out that they were right—if you play it, they will come to hear it. With Duke&Dawn, country music is back to being country!