Phil DaRosa used to play with Valley band Bathtub Mary. These days, he’s back where he grew up, on Martha’s Vineyard, making music with his band Dukes County Love Affair.
The latest EP from that group reveals some highly particular songwriting tendencies. On the first track, you’ll find short rhythmic phrases in the vocals, which veer quite near rap delivery at times. When the choruses come around, things tend to get big and bombastic as the choppier rhythms give way to slower-paced, distorted sounds. Big chunks of guitar and keyboard offer a rock swagger that is the EP’s most winning quality. That first tune, “My Delight” is the kind of song that’s likely to get stuck in your head, with its repetetive and catchy chorus.
From there, the sounds turn decidedly toward blues and R&B, with jangly guitar and piano. The choruses stay big, and the verses continue with short rhythmic phrases. DaRosa and company seem to thrive on the big moments when shouts and bombast take over. Their lower-energy moments are solid bridges to the rest, but are more expected in their contours and melodies than the pleasantly noisy tangles of chorus. The keyboard—varying from piano to organ and more purely electronic tones—does a lot of the work of conjuring different moods and feels. It works particularly well when organ or Rhodes tones weave in and out of the noise, all of it punctuated with cymbal-heavy drumming.
Dukes County Love Affair seems to have its own love affair with heavy rock sounds and blues, adding up to a modern band with plenty of old-school, classic rock-style lack of preciousness. Its dramatic music seems particularly well suited to live performance.•