Seattleite TJ Cowgill, a.k.a. King Dude, sings in a certain dry-throated, baritone groan that the term “deathly” can’t even do justice. “Hyper-ominous” would be closer, though on his latest effort Burning Daylight, it occasionally ranges from something like Johnny Cash with an electrolarynx to something like Tom Waits after inhaling a helium balloon. Consider also that Cowgill fronts a death metal band called Book of Black Earth and that he runs this clothing line, and you’d probably be surprised that “folk” is his attribution of choice for King Dude – and not even in a “consider this an invitation to never ask what ‘genre’ I am again” manner a la Frank Ocean.
No, King Dude makes a truly unrivaled brand of pitch dark, occult-inspired music centered on traditional American folk and country arrangements. While that might sound a bit novelty or even kitschy at first, it makes more sense once the initial discord wears off – when Cowgill bellows about “Jesus in the courtyard, tellin’ lies,” it’s not so hard to hear him drawing equally from the books of both Robert Johnson and Black Sabbath. “If you really do have a message – and I feel like I do – why not get it out further than just the same circle of black metal or heavy metal people who don’t really listen to the lyrics anyway?” he thought aloud recently.
Cowgill’s efforts to veer from esotericism shine through most on the penultimate track, “You Can Break My Heart”, which comes off something like Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” as sang by Lou Reed and played back in slow motion. If it is somewhat novel, give Cowgill some credit – it at least has some wide-appealing merit too.
Essential tracks: “Holy Land”, “You Can Break My Heart”