‘The Dukes of September’ at Wolf Trap by Mike Spain

On a beautiful August night at Wolf Trap an opening act is not needed when the featured act includes Steely Dan founder Donald Fagen, former Doobie Brother Michael McDonald, and Boz Scaggs who was also in The Steve Miller Band before achieving solo success. Calling themselves The Dukes of September they had a huge pool of songs to pick from their former groups and solo catalogs. Add in personal favorites and the list of possibilities grows even bigger. Backed by an outstanding band complete with horn section, top notch session bassists, drummer, Jon Herrington on guitar, Carolyn Leonhart and Catherine Russell on backing vocals the legendary trio had the musicians to make memorable any selection they choose.

The band picked over 20 songs to perform. The show starting off with a cover of The Isley Brothers “Who’s That Lady?” followed by Arthur Conley’s “Sweet Soul Music.” Just when the evening was getting cover heavy Michael McDonald brought out his “I keep Forgettin’” gem. Everyone got a chance to shine but one thing was clear – Donald Fagen was the leader.

Michael McDonald.

McDonald had plenty of moments with “What A Fool Believes” – a song he wrote with Kenny Loggins and recorded with The Doobie Brothers. They also performed The Doobie Brothers’ “Takin’ It to the Street.”

Boz Scaggs.

Boz Scaggs had his moments with “Miss Son” and “Lowdown.” While the number of original songs might be down for Scaggs and McDonald it is important to mention they were very involved in the covers. Scaggs had some noteworthy guitar solos throughout the evening and complemented Jon Herrington quite well on guitar.

If you were a Steely Dan fan you were not disappointed with this show. “Kid Charlemagne” and “Hey 19” were mixed in the set. The Dukes ended the show with “Reeling in the Years.” Then they came out for their encore which included two more Steely Dan songs “Peg” and “Pretzel Logic.” As great as the versions of Fagens, McDonalds, and Scaggs previous songsthey were matched by the splendid versions of other covers.

Choosing to go with Gladys Knight and the Pips’ version of “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” gave Carolyn Leonhart a chance to shine on lead vocals and she did not disappoint. On “Piece of My Heart” the band choose to go with Erma Franklin’s version instead of the Janis Joplin version. Catherine Russell handles the lead vocals with a great blend of energy and talent to make the song her own. The Dukes of September had no problem with sharing the spotlight. The final song of their three song encore was a cover of Sly and the Family Stone “Thank You Fallettin Me Be Mice Elf Again.”

Yes the musicians might be reeling in the years but they but their vocals and other music skills are still in fine shape. Along the way they have fallen in love with some of the greatest soul, rock, and blues songs ever recorded. Tonight they decided to share those songs along side some of the best songs they have recorded during their spectacular careers.

Donald Fagen.

Running time: Approximately Two hours and 15 minutes.

The Dukes of September played one night at Wolf Trap at The Filene Center – 1551 Trap Road, in Vienna, VA. on Monday, August 6, 2012. To view upcoming events at Wolf Trap, check out their calendar.


The Dukes of September on Boz Scaggs’ website.


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