* * * 1/2
At 23, singer Duffy brings a wizened depth to the songs on her debut album that belies her youth and roots in a small town in Wales. On "Rockferry," the former waitress deals in wistful, cloudy-day soul -- the title track characteristically frames her razor-thin but warm voice in the widescreen rolling lushness of strings. It's a very early-'60s retro sound, and Duffy's languid vocal precision and economic use of "soul" inflections easily cut through the vast sonic dimensions.
Summoning reference to '60s singers like Ronnie Spector and Dusty Springfield, Duffy makes the airily dramatic "Warwick Avenue" and the slow, funky steam of "Serious" showcases for her low-key vocal tricks. Her techniques get a bit predictable, somewhat like Amy Winehouse's, though overall Duffy is much more straightforward. She's passionate but down to earth and somehow that much cooler for it, though the peppy go-go-style dance hit "Mercy" allows her to display a considerably tougher persona.
Duffy's not a belter, but she boasts a cool power that is immensely aided by the cleverness of "Rockferry's" instrumental settings, which employ mostly acoustic instruments for a warmer sound that, in combination with Duffy's vocal prowess, stays sweet, soulful and satisfying.
The below review is from the Canadian Press:
Retro-soul ingenue Duffy shows plenty of promise on debut album
Duffy's debut album could slip in between Dionne Warwick and Dusty Springfield on a collector's shelf, but the 23-year-old pop-soul ingenue says she developed her sound without hearing either artist.
Still, the singer-songwriter, who grew up in a remote Welsh village where top-40 music ruled, embodies the style and substance of a classic '60s soul diva.
She co-wrote each of the ten tracks on "Rockferry," an album all about old-fashioned heartbreak. On the title track, Duffy has "a bag of songs and a heavy heart." She tells a lover they're finished in the sparsely arranged "Warwick Avenue," bemoans his lack of attention in "Hanging On Too Long" and tries to keep herself from the arms of a cheater in "Stepping Stone."
She knows she's a fool in love and pleads for compassion on the super-catchy single, "Mercy." Duffy taps into her inner Aretha Franklin on the electro-tinged tune, begging for mercy over a bouncy chorus of yeah, yeah, yeahs.
While none of the album's other songs are as punchy or uptempo and this toe-tapping track, Duffy delivers a solid, soulful debut with the same retro appeal and promise Amy Winehouse generated with 2006's "Back to Black."
"Rockferry" only lags on its final tune - ironically the album's most positive. A soaring anthem about life's possibilities laid over an orchestral backdrop, "Distant Dreamer" sounds like the theme song for a cheesy children's film.
Check out this track: A lone guitar provides the melody and Duffy lets loose with a lovesick wail as she implores her baby to "spend your time on me" in the soulful and spare "Syrup & Honey."