Album review: Duke Special - Oh Pioneer

Always under the popular radar despite producing a glut of grown-up, well-crafted songs, could this sprawling sonic adventure be the Duke’s ticket to stardom?

With his first ‘commercial’ album since 2008’s I Never Thought This Day Would Come, the relentlessly dedicated Duke has seemingly survived music labels’ indifference to tread his own path – even getting fans to fund previous releases.

Defiant spirit is all well and good, but without vision and talent it’s redundant. The dreadlocked Duke isn’t short on either, his lilting voice bolstered with bold songwriting and Duke’s characteristic idiosyncrasies.

Operatic drama punches through Snakes In The Grass while pop melodies are woven intricate, leftfield new nests in Condition and the piano-dusted Lost Chord.

There are embracing horns and organ, offset elsewhere by beautifully downcast lilts, calm and heartbreak, such as Always Been There.

Almost as if besieged with ideas, Duke shows a rare ability to marshal them all into a cohesive, adventurous and emotionally engaging whole that will grab you by the soul as well as the mind.

A worthy discovery.

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4 stars