Holy Trinity: Dare Dukes, Thursday Night Opry, and YOU

The Thursday Night Opry kicks off a new season of acoustic-themed performances at Trinity United Methodist Church, Thursday, January 19. For three years local music aficionados Jared Hall and Jon Waits have been consistently curating a listening-focused space for artists and audiences to share and experience original music.

Dare Dukes, Savannah’s very own heavy hitter of quirk-alt-Americana, performs along with locals Coy Campbell, Sarah Poole, Kurtis Schumm, and Rachel Shaner. Touring artists Justin Hylton, Blake Rainey, and Jason Waller round out the bill for an evening packed with seasoned writers and players.

Recently, hissing lawns caught up with pensive troubadour, Dare Dukes. Dukes also directs Deep Center, a youth organization that mentors local junior high and high school students in transforming their personal experiences into written stories of growth and healing. “It’s like a 60, maybe 70 hour a week position,” says Dukes, explaining his current under the radar music profile. “But I’m surrounded by stories, stories and characters, that’s what songwriting is, isn’t?” he asks earnestly.

Propped against the dining room table is Dukes’ vintage Gibson. His workhorse. “I’m writing, working on a new one…” his voice trails.

Dare Dukes grew up in Northern California, went to grad school in Minnesota, then landed a series of writer-ly jobs in New York City. His passion for writing led to finishing a novel of his own. And then another. They were good. An agent liked his work and took on Dukes as a client, but despite their sustained diligence, the novels didn’t publish. He then turned to music where his love of storytelling fit naturally with songwriting. And then Dare Dukes wrote songs. Song after song, honing and refining his craft in the crucible of New York City.

“Most of the songs on Thugs and China Dolls came from that time after the novel,” continues Dukes. Which makes sense. The lyrics are tight, idiosyncratic at times, specific and seemingly calculated both by syllable and sound. It’s writer-ly.

Thugs and China Dolls comes up as country and folk in itunes. The album is sort of country in its instrumentation — banjo, accordion, piano — but the stories and musical arrangements are far from big truck drivin’, broken hearted-tear-in-your-beer top forty or anything folk for that matter. Imagine, instead, what it would sound like if Michael Stipe, They Might Be Giants, Sufjan Stevens, and the Pixies hosted a poetry reading in the live oaks of Sonoma County in the middle of July at midnight. Dare Dukes’ music could be that kind of country.

Dukes reaches for his guitar, “I read this story, or maybe I heard it on Radio Lab, about a guy with a parrot as a service animal,” he continues, “He was bipolar and this parrot learned how to speak to him and soothe him before he had a break. I liked this story.”

And with that introduction, Dares Dukes launches into “Jim Eggers’ Parrot” a track from Thugs and China Dolls.

Dare Dukes
photo Josephine Johnson

The Vitals

What: Thursday Night Opry Singer/Songwriter Edition

When: 7:30-10 p.m. Jan. 19

Where: Trinity United Methodist Church, 225 W. President St.

How much: $10 donation