Duende is the fifth studio album by The Band of Heathens. The title is a Spanish word meaning passion, heightened emotion, or spirit; and it is a fitting moniker for this set. Departing from the sparse, introspective feel of their last album, the band plugs back in and combines the best elements of their previous four releases for a powerful, passionate album.
Fusing the elements of Indie Country and Alt Rock, The Heathens hit that sweet spot that is a synergy of the two. Part Lumineers and part Black Keys, The Band of Heathens also channels the duende of past artists like Uncle Tupelo, Delbert McClinton, The Eagles and a host of others. The result is that each of the ten tracks on this album is delightfully distinctive. And lead singer Ed Jurdi’s powerful, melodic voice gives passionate expression to each one.
The album opens with the bouncy bass line and rhythmic hand claps of “All I’m Asking.” The trampoline rhythms rise and fall as the band recounts life’s ups and downs. Singing, “I feel like I’ve been here before. I chose the wrong path, I opened the wrong door… All I’m asking (is) let me change your mind.” Despite the remorse of the lyrics, the melody and vocal harmonies buoy the mood and transform a plea for mercy into a joyful invitation for reconciliation.
“Sugar Queen” follows, adding a sweet, swampy flavor. Combining Dr. John funk with Allman Brothers guitar licks, the band pays homage to a favorite Bourbon street dancer and all the joys she represents.
“Last Minute Man” is a Little Feat meets Taj Mahal (the singer, not the mausoleum) inspired tribute to taking it easy. Singing, “I’m not running to get nowhere. Kickin’ back as much as I can. Coming in on a wing and a prayer, I’m your last minute man,” Ed and company celebrate the joys of moving at your own pace, even as that pace changes from song to song.
The Heathens even manage to work in a little Brit Pop influence for the peppy “Deep Is Love.” The duende of Clapton’s “Lay Down Sally” permeates “Keys to the Kingdon.” While “Trouble Came Early” is a straight up barn burner ala vintage Black Crowes. Like a fine wine, Duende combines hints and notes of numerous sources into a cohesive and satisfying concoction. For a Band of Heathens, they make a heavenly sound.