After the 2008 release of his Rykodisc debut album, Kingdom Underground, Philadelphia-based singer-songwriter Matt Duke released his newest EP, Acoustic Kingdom Underground EP, this summer. A stripped-down collection of five tunes, opened by an extra hidden track, the Acoustic Kingdom Underground EP continues to show Duke's music industry categorization defiance, and young wisdom.
The songs selected for the EP were some of the more popular songs from the full-length album, and were primarily inspired by Duke's favorite literary experiences from John Milton's Paradise Lost, Leon Uris' Trinity, Ayn Rand's We The Living, and John Updike's Rabbit. For anyone not familiar with Duke's music, it is generally his style to release full band recordings and perform acoustic sets, sticking with the coffeeshop-style performances. Incorporating rock, pop, jazz and folk, Duke writes and performs with the gift of taking uncomfortable topics and making them emotionally accessible through his lyrics, simple guitar and expressive voice.
Opening the album with the previously unreleased title track, "Kingdom Underground," we see a glimpse of singer's religious struggles as he tells the story of Adam and Eve from the perspective of Satan. Following this track, "The Father, The Son, and The Harlot's Ghost" introduces a different song style with rather simple guitar and more lyrical content. As Duke sings about a struggle with faith through trembling vocals, his phrasing and words are a mirror to the type of conversation we would be having in our own heads, with questions, frustrations and strong desire for truth.
"Walk It Off" is a slower version than the originally released track, which allows more emotion through the words and style. Duke is able to show an amount of anger and resent often felt in a lovers fight. "Sex and Reruns" is also very different from the original track. Duke meanders through the form of his phrasing, as is often allowed by accompanying yourself on only an acoustic guitar, reaching a different level of honesty and meaning before closing with "Rabbit," the ballad of the collection.
Duke's material has the potential to reach more than just the swooning female fan. His content is meaningful, and he holds a rare ability to speak through song in an honest, realistic way. Releasing an acoustic EP was a great move, allowing the opportunity to reach different listeners, as well as current listeners who may not be convinced of his talent.