Mike Dunn and the Kings of New England- Sundowner
Record Label: P Is for Panda
Release Date: October 6, 2009
I think Florida must have a way of bringing the basics of American rock out in people. Tom Petty and his band of Heartbreakers certainly have made a grand career of it and many before and since are following suit. This is exactly what is found with Winter Park’s Mike Dunn and the Kings of New England (MDTKONE for short), which hails from P is For Panda, a label that has similar state-bred musicians with a raw no-flash sound is the debut full length Sundowner.
The comparison to Tom Petty is obvious, but there are also similarities to artists like that of Ryan Adams, label mates Gasoline Heart and of course, what is a basic rock album without a nod to sounding like Bruce Springsteen? That right there should say enough to know what to expect from this album. Being from Florida and a fan of Petty, I came into this expecting enjoyment. I thought I was going to be left wanting at first, but the more I listened the more I was opened up.
The album kicks off with “The Promised Land”, and immediately I think “Hey, I know this song! Oh wait. No, it just sounds almost identical to Gasoline Heart’s opening track from You Know Who You Are.” Being label mates, and the fact GH’s front man Louis DeFabrizio produced MDTKONE’s self released EP The Edge of America. I am not very surprised, but I am a bit turned off that they start an album almost exactly like their label mates did previously. The song goes on to be a solid track that sets the tone for what the album entails. “Princeton” is a more rocking track giving the ears some driving guitar pickin’ n’ grinnin’. The song is upbeat while the lyrics counter with down and out lines such as ‘If you find love just keep it away from me.’ Dunn sounds at times like his vocals are pushed to their limit on this one and raspy turns almost to sandpaper. When this happens it strengthens the connection making a possible weak point an emotional edge in delivery reminiscent of struggling through the magic of Dylan (this is the only reminiscence).
Some may say one cannot have an American rock album from Florida without mentioning northern neighbor Georgia and this is exactly how the slow burning “Marietta” begins. Places of “Jealous Head” bring Ryan Adams to mind while the great steel guitar and piano cause this to possibly be my favorite track. “Don’t You Dare” has a chorus with sing-a-long groove, nice distorted guitar run and a line that could very likely be quoted in the future ‘…baby it will be okay as long as there are songs to be sung’. Organ thickens up an otherwise delicate sounding “Crooked Tooth Grin.” The closer and title track Sundowner is a bit anti-climatic, but does possess nice keys to the outro.
Something about the straightforwardness of this form of rock has a way of speaking to all generations. Play this album when your Dad is in the car with you and you hit a long stretch of highway to conjure up a bonding moment with these tunes as life’s soundtrack.
While Sundowner is not for someone wanting to hear a new sound or anything of the mind blowing effect, this is one of those showing promise of having lasting power. Give it time to sink in and it may just get deep enough to be buried inside.
One thing I also have to add is that P is for Panda seems to have a knack for filling a roster with artists similar to this. I highly recommend checking the other names on that label.