Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Gráinne Duffy - Voodoo Blues

“Please sir, I want some more,” said Oliver Twist.
Which sums up how I feel about Voodoo Blues, the latest album by Irish roots songstress Gráinne Duffy.  I want some more because it’s lip-smackingly tasty, unlike the thin gruel Oliver endured – but also because a little ain’t quite enough.
Whereas her previous album Where I Belong took a mellow, Laurel Canyon singer-songwriterly turn, this time around it seems Duffy and her fellow guitar-wielding husband Paul Sherry decided to, er, get their rocks off.  So four of the ten tracks channel raw and lusty blues roots, starting
Gráinne Duffy - the lady doesn't half sing the blues
 with ‘Voodoo Blues’ itself, which sets forth with an old-fashioned blues riff, faintly distorted vocals, and work song-tinged backing vox, and then uncorks a powerful chorus and some wiry guitar to compete with the vocals on the outro.
It’s a theme that continues with ‘Mercy’, with Duffy casting her soulful voice over a stomping, ‘Red Rooster’-style riff, before letting rip on the chorus.  Later, on ‘Wreck It Up’, ripped out guitar chords preface an emphatic vocal, again a little distorted, on which she proclaims that “We’re gonna boogie and we’re gonna shake”.  I believe you, girl.  The sound is stripped back but in no way soft, and crunches to a raunchy ending with thumping bass and drums from Dale Davis and Troy Miller.  Only - would a howling guitar break have hammered it home to the hilt?  I think it would.  Something to look forward onstage, perhaps, one fine day when live music returns.
‘Hard Rain’ closes the album with another tough, primitive vibe, grinding guitar chords opening up over a sparse rhythm to create an ominous groove befitting the title, then rising on surges of organ towards Duffy letting her inner Etta James loose in testifyin’ fashion – and even supplying her own gospellated backing vocals for emphasis.
In between, songs like ‘Blue Skies’ and ‘Shine It On Me’ signal a convincing return to the crossover soul/blues/country sound of her second album Test Of Time, the former with a strong melody, catchy chorus and Motown-leaning middle eight, the latter with a touch of funk to the rhythm guitar, with brief lead interjections over long organ chords, and a country-ish guitar solo.
There’s more funkiness in the elasticated bass line of the foot-tappingly soulful ‘Roll It’, with its gently ringing guitar chords, lazily snapping drums and bursts of organ.  And Davis’ bass also bumps and grinds to good effect under the squealing guitar licks of ‘Tick Tock’, on which an anthemic bridge runs into some slithering guitar work before Miller’s drums get a serious workout to build a semi-psychedelic crescendo.
But the other standout track is ‘Don’t You Cry For Me’.  Flurries of organ and guitar chords combine on a restrained intro, before evolving into a chunk of gospel-ish soul on which Duffy’s voice is very much the focus.  And when she knocks out a breath-taking long note here, one can only approve.  Then when the rhythm section kicks in, augmented by forceful organ from Miller matters then take on a Steve Winwood-cum-Joe Cocker hue - except, you know, female.
I have only one rather selfish gripe.  The Voodoo Blues menu is short – the whole album clocks in at 32 minutes – and my appetite would have been fully sated if a couple of songs had been developed further.  Please Miss Duffy, I want some more!
Whatever.  Voodoo Blues is a cracking album, and a salutary reminder that Gráinne Duffy is one of the most spine-tingling roots singers out there.  With strong songs, and sympathetic production from Troy Miller, it sounds like she’s back home where she belongs – playing the blues.

Voodoo Blues is available now, and can be ordered here.

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