Matt Duke - Love on a Major Scale EP
Record Label: Rock Ridge Music
Release Date: Nov. 17, 2012
Many listeners were taken for a loop when acoustic rock purveyor Matt Duke pulled a Bob Dylan and upped the sonic ante on his electric-driven LP One Day Die. The critics were even less convinced (save for this one) and Duke eventually was dropped from his label and left to fend for his own. Those that bashed Duke could not see the beauty in what the Philly-based songwriter was trying to do. Alas, what's the point of being an artist if you don't stretch yourself? And One Day Die was Duke stretching. If it was a slight miss, so be it, but you'll never hear that from this writer. Alas, it's three years later and Duke has released Love on a Major Scale, a concise six-song EP that will serve his fan base well.
Opener "Aching Love," is just as its title describes, an aching and yearning love song in which Duke quivers and shakes over a soft acoustic guitar. "Birds and the Bees," is a ruminative acoustic effort but not nearly as transcendent or vital as "Aching Love." Those that found Duke at his best with the coffeehouse acoustic vibe will find plenty to like here. The six-minute "Everything Pales," begins quiet and gentle and dabbles in the placid waters of introspection for a solid six minutes. Strings chime in towards the latter half and when all is said and done Duke has written what is arguably one of his most personal and most delicately affecting songs to date. The chilly "The Eyes," is more romantic ruminating, while "Hold Me," is more of the same but does so in a manner that's more guttural and grandiose. The EP closes out with "Left to the Sea," a genial yarn that sounds like a distant cousin of some of the quieter moments of One Day Die.
But at the heart of it, Love on a Major Scale is a bit of a let down. Duke has done the acoustic coffeehouse thing for years and finally seemed to shed that moniker with One Day Die. That album in many ways felt like a breakthrough, a bellwether for the coffeehouse circuit. A way of inviting other coffeehouse artists to dig a little deeper, try a little harder and not be afraid to take risks. Love on a Major Scale however sounds safe. That is not to say that the EP doesn't have its charms, it most definitely does, but after a giant like One Day Die, one expected another notch forward. Thankfully this is just an EP. Another disc like this and Duke will become just another pretty face with a guitar and a story to tell.