Duke Junior & The Smokey Boots
Gig Seeker Pro

Duke Junior & The Smokey Boots

Athens, Ohio, United States | SELF

Athens, Ohio, United States | SELF
Band Folk Country


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Duke Junior & the Smokey Boots"

Expect nothing short of fantastic country-folk from this Athens, OH quintet. With harmonies that seriously rival David Rawlings and Gillian Welch and a level of musicianship that just completely blows everyone else away, this crew isn’t going to be our regional secret for very long. Hear those harmonies and the words that sound so right. Some of the best songwriting and musicianship we’ve heard in a long time! Good-natured, earnest and country music the way it ought to be played. - City Beat

"The Boots Battle for Billboard's Best"

The Boots Battle for Billboard's Best
By Amanda Norris, Staff Writer
April 6, 2011

Drummer Aaron Lemley answered his cell phone after yet another sleepless night in what has been nothing short of a whirlwind two weeks for Athens's beloved folk/Americana outfit, Duke Junior and the Smokey Boots.

“Sorry if I’m scattered,” he said. “We played Charleston, West Virginia last night and I didn’t get to sleep until about 4 [a.m.].” He sounded exhausted, but the exhaustion wasn’t what stood out. What stood out was his pure excitement--the kind of excitement that is not hindered by a lack of sleep, but rather fueled by it.

Everything seems to be coming together for the Smokey Boots, and the bags under their eyelids are not battle scars--they’re trophies.

Billboard.com has chosen Duke Junior and the Smokey Boots to compete in its Battle of the Bands, a contest designed to find the best unsigned talents across the U.S. Currently, they are up against two other Midwest-based bands and, if they win the most votes in their region, they will have the opportunity to compete in the final battle at the 2011 Billboard Music Awards on May 22 in Las Vegas.

In less than a month, Duke Junior and the Smokey Boots have gone from being a local act with the occasional out-of-town weekend gig to a group getting national exposure.

How did this happen? According to Duke Junior, your guess is as good as theirs.

“I honestly don’t know how they found us,” Lemley said.

“It was pretty shocking,” vocalist/guitarist Jess Kauffman continued. “Those kind of things are usually something you go out looking for and, when they first contacted us, we didn’t really know if it was legitimate or not.”

After receiving Billboard’s preliminary notification that they had been chosen to compete, as well as a follow-up e-mail assuring the skeptical band that it was indeed the actual Billboard.com contacting them, Duke Junior and the Smokey Boots were thrust into what can only be described as a “mad dash.”

“It was basically: 'Okay, you have 24 hours. Hurry up and get everything together, write a band bio, and send it all to us or you could be disqualified,'” Lemley said, seemingly out of breath at the mere memory of everything that transpired in that brief-though-eventful time frame.

Choosing the track they wanted featured--“Penny,” a rough cut off their forthcoming release, due sometime in early June--was relatively easy, according to Lemley. “It’s probably the best representation of the band we have to date,” he said. After receiving permission from their producer to leak the track, they assumed the hard part was over.

They were wrong.

The group was playing a show in Thomas, West Virginia when they received their 24-hour ultimatum. After having chosen the track, finding an Internet connection through which to send it proved to be the more difficult feat. Even more difficult was finding a fax machine to send the contract, but with a little help from their friends at Office Max, everything eventually went according to plan.

“We had to hustle a bit, and band/musician types aren’t necessarily known for being the most organized,” Lemley admitted. “It all had to be done very quickly and then, all of a sudden, we were on the website. It was a little haphazard.”

Despite the initial rush, Duke Junior and the Smokey Boots could not be happier with the way things turned out. “We are all incredibly excited about it,” Kauffman said. “We are honored to have been chosen by them.”

Duke Junior and the Smokey Boots are the only roots/Americana act featured in the competition as well as the only Ohio act. Their sound, which is known for being very Athens-centric, will now be presented to a larger audience--an opportunity in which they are reveling.

“We’ll go and play other places and people that have been to Athens will say, ‘Oh, hearing you guys makes me think of Athens,’” Kauffman said. “It’d be really cool to take that concept and take it across the U.S. and go up against the other bands that were chosen.”

Regardless of what happens, one thing is certain: Duke Junior and the Smokey Boots will not be forgetting their roots--musically or geographically.

“We’re just going to do what we do and what we know, and we are going to play it as best we can. And hopefully, that will be enough,” multi-instrumentalist Kyle Martin concluded. “Regardless of whether or not we win this contest, simply having our name involved and getting people excited about voting for us puts our band name out there. All in all, I see it as a win-win situation.”

If Duke Junior and the Smokey Boots are chosen to represent the Midwest, they will be leaving for Vegas the day after they play the Nelsonville Music Festival. However, since they are now accustomed to rushing about, they are looking upon that challenge not with apprehension, but with anticipation.

“Hopefully we can bring our Athens sound to Vegas,” Kauffman said. “We just have to mak - ACRN

"Duke Junior & the Smokey Boots to Perform at The Southgate House"

Written by Gretchen Gregory

Could Athens based-band Duke Junior & The Smokey Boots be on the verge of a break through in festival land? Keep an eye out for these guys, because they've got the potential and momentum to play a lot of places this summer.

Foot-stomping bass, an electrifying guitar, and a singer who grew up loving jazz music make up this five-piece number that I can only describe as a country-swing band with jazz sensibilities and a hint of old country. They have a steely country rock sound, with a jazz twist of sorts.

They've been picking up momentum since they formed just two years ago, performing in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Ohio, and they're always on the lookout for more. Catch them for free at the Southgate House in Newport, Kentucky on Friday, Jan. 14.

“We’re kind of sitting in this middle ground,” explained Jess Kauffman, a singer and guitar player who grew up hearing Ella Fitzgerald the jazz legend. “People can find what they like out of our music. We have a wide variety of influences, all of us individually, so we kind of put that all together to form this thing we have now, and that appeals to a lot of different people.”

“The people who listen to us can pick out the influences they like; they can hear the jazzy side, and Casey (Davis') guitar playing has more of a country attitude, so we’re very versatile with what our sound is,” she added.

The old country sound comes out in their lyrics on occasion, and through the newest edition to the band – fiddle and banjo player Matt Horn.

- Cincy Groove Magazine

"Getting a Big Break"

Avon Lake native's band to perform in Cleveland

Jess Kauffman, an Avon Lake native, has made the leap from guitar student to the opening act for a well-known country music star in merely three years. Kauffman and Kyle Martin, another member of her five-member band, Duke Junior and The Smokey Boots, will be opening Wednesday for Todd Snider when he comes to the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland.

The 24-year old Kauffman has a mellow, slightly raspy, slightly sad voice that suggests a sense of worldliness beyond her years. It draws listeners into an intimate space and harmonizes well with the fiddle and guitar.
- The Chronicle Telegram

"Bag of Bones"

Bag of Bones
Duke Junior & the Smokey Boots
Sept. 2010

I really like this CD! And you will too! How can you not like anyone from Athens, Ohio? I wasn't sure what I was in for when the CD opened with (a very short & intense) Introduction with some strange tremolo guitar sounds and Jess Kauffman belting out "I need a savior to come on down." Then, Music for Morning Aftermath came on with some nice acoustic strumming complimented with harmonics and fine vocal harmonies by Kyle and Jess straight from the heart... "Momma already knows...I gotta couple of problems; I got no better way to solve 'em."

Followed by Honey Go On, featuring Jess on vocals sounding like a countrified Norah Jones. It's been a long time since something like that sent shivers down my spine. She follows with an up beat bluesy-folksy Coffee in the Morning. There are some catchy tunes along the way with fun lighthearted lyrics. One cut that comes to mind is Roadhouse Rag, a duet by Kyle and Jess that I kept snapping my fingers to. Another fun tune Jess sings with a snappy beat is Travelin' Man. She reprises the Introduction with Save Me asking for her savior to come on down and "save me from myself."

Throughout Bag of Bones is a variety of delta slide guitar sounds appearing in songs. The musicianship is outstanding and the banjo sublteties add a nice touch. Drummer Aaron Lemley compliments the band well with just the right stroke on the drums and knowing what each song needs.

Kyle has a fine vocal range and feeling in his singing. He adds a nice variety for the CD in the songs he takes lead in such as Bulletproof and Two Dollar Bill. Closing out with the title tune Bag of Bones, a sweet ballad by Jess reflecting on her heart and soul. I can't say enough how much from the heart they sing.

Do yourself a favor and add Bag of Bones to your collection. It is so refreshing to hear a band of young musicians performing such pleasant folksy sounds. - North Coast Voice Magazine

"Who's Who in Athens (Radio Interview)"

http://woubmedia1.tcom.ohiou.edu/Radio%20Free%20Athens/who-duke-052309.m3u?play=1 - Radio Free Athens, 5/23/09 WOUB-AM

"User Review--Archive.org"

Reviewer: Eco_Cooper - - June 8, 2009
Subject: Simply Amazing

Duke Junior and The Smokey Boots are an amazing collection of Athens Ohio's finest musicians. The band puts off amazing energy and will keep you smiling for hours. I can not wait to see them play again, if u get a chance to see them live make sure you bring your dancing shoes!! - http://www.archive.org

"(Excerpt on Jess Kauffman) from The Athens News"

"...Singer-songwriter Kauffman took a modern twist on county-blues twang, channeling both Loretta Lynn and Fiona Apple. The early crowd was happy to play the role of an accompanying percussion section, stomping along to Kauffman's solo strum. " - The Athens News-Monday, August 25, 2008


Bag of Bones
Released: 2009



Duke Junior & The Smokey Boots formed in the spring of 2009 to record the songs of their debut album, Bag of Bones. Featuring the songwriting and vocals of Jess Kauffman and Kyle Lewis Martin as well as lead guitarist Casey Davis, Bag of Bones is a reflection of life and times in their hometown of Athens, Ohio.

The group expanded to a rootsy quintet with the addition of drummer, Aaron Lemley, and fiddle/banjo player, Matt Horne. American roots music and singer/songwriter traditions are the Boots' influences. They've been described as a "country swing band with jazz sensibilities and a hint of old country." Known to put on an exciting live show, they mix high-energy rhythms with intricate leads and provocative lyrical delivery. Enjoyed for their strong stage presence and friendly demeanor, they only find their fan base growing. The Boots were recently named one of the top 18 most promising unsigned bands by Billboard magazine. The band is currently working on a new album which will be released this summer.