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Album Review: Duke Garwood – Heavy Love

3 min read

Duke Garwood is the invisible man of alternative music. Despite playing with some of the genre’s heaviest hitters – he’s collaborated with Mark Lanegan, Savages, and The Archie Bronson Outfit amongst others – his name will probably be known to few. However, that all seems poised to change now Garwood has released his strongest solo album to date, Heavy Love, a collection of impressively raw ballads.

Duke Garwood - Heavy LoveAlbum opener Sometimes begins proceedings on a high note. It’s whiskey soaked sexy, and so slow burning that its true power does not become entirely apparent until the midway point. Indeed, a lot of the songs could be underappreciated by the casual listener. Garwood never overstates his case, or peaks too early: songs like Burning Seas and Roses carve themselves a little space and then rest there, taking their beautifully sweet time. Of them all however, it is Heavy Love, a song that features Savages’ Jehnny Beth that demonstrates how good Garwood is at finding the power in the understated; the song’s hypnotic guitar riff ensnares the listener from the start, and its insistent beauty is spellbinding.

Even when a song like Disco Lights seems poised to break into a full down electric freakout, Garwood neatly steps back from the brink in a way that is satisfying rather than disappointing. The weight of the entire album is based in potential energy, rather than a full on release, and songs like the acoustic Sweet Wine or the darkly beautiful Suppertime In Hell are shrouded in an atmosphere so thick you could cut it with a knife

Although the album features some impressive instrumentation, the real star is Garwood’s voice. Understated yet powerful, it’s a melodic, touching drawl that feels increasingly honest with every note sung. Honey In the Ear, the song that boasts Garwood’s most powerful vocal delivery has an apt title indeed: the man’s voice is as sweet and thick as molasses. But, as ever, Garwood knows not to oversaturate the listener, and although his voice trembles and rumbles on a song like the down and dirty Snake Man it never becomes melodramatic or hysterical. It’s raw, powerful stuff.

The album ends as powerfully as it begins, with the six minute plus Hawaiian Death Song sporting some of Garwood’s strongest lyrics and a tone of hard won redemption with ease and grace. It is easy to see the life lived through these songs: Garwood is clearly not a man who has spent his existence inside, in a recording studio, and the full weight and pain of the musician, his mistakes, and his successes has the power to move any listener who comes to the album with an open mind.

Heavy Love is a powerful record, crafted by a genuine talent. Although Garwood himself has stated not becoming a star when he was younger probably saved his life, it’s hard not to want a man this skilled to hit it big. With Heavy Love Garwood has definitively stepped out of the shadows and into the spotlight: let’s hope he stays there for some time to come.