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.
Everyone was doing their own projects for awhile, and eventually met by hearing each other play. “We were all kind of out on our own, Kauffman continued. “Kyle, the other singer/songwriter actually was in a band in Cincinnati called the Perfect Norm for a little while, but he was thinking of starting a new project. Casey Davis met him and started working on some stuff. One of the guys was at one of my shows, cause I was solo for a couple of years. They came to me and asked if we wanted to join this project. After this, we added drummer Aaron Lemley and Matt Horne.”
Check out the band on their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/dukeboots.