From his Minnesota roots one can hear a distinct Replacements influence on the rollicking "Meet You At the Bus". His time in California manifests as a carefree vibe on the album closer "Mighty Love".
Most prominent though, has been his time in the south. It's his plucky banjo that powers most of this record. He does it, not in a kitchy way, like a Dent May dose, but with honesty and he works hard to make it blend with the rest of his more contemporary instruments.
It seems as though more and more instruments get piled on the arrangements as the album goes on. By the time you reach the frantic "When the Sky Breaks", you can count horns and piano among the mix.
Dukes' vocals can get grating from time-to-time. He tends to sing with a high-pitch. When he creeps near falsetto territory, it's can get a bit uncomfortable to listen to.
All in all though, good pop songwriting and sense of melody win the day, making Thugs and China Dolls an enjoyable listen.
Best tracks: "Meet You At the Bus", "Jim Eggers Parrot"
Track listing for Thugs and China Dolls:
- Old West Broad
- Meet You At the Bus
- Thugs and China Dolls
- Jim Eggers Parrot
- Lament of the Subway Rider
- Crooked Mouth
- Simon Says
- These Inglorious Displays
- The Lesson
- When the Sky Breaks
- Mighty Love