You could call it the herd instinct. Following the success of David Gray and Dido, the British music industry sucked up singer-songwriters of both sexes and we ended up with James Blunt and Katie Melua. The Lily Allen phenomenon then gave rise to Kate Nash and her ilk. And with Amy Winehouse's confessional soul selling millions, everyone has been scouring the British Isles for young women of the blue-eyed soul persuasion.
The Welsh singer Duffy is one of the names on everyone's lips and already adorning the covers of the colour supplements, even if her debut album, Rockferry, is only due in March. She's also packing them in at the plush Pigalle Club. The air of sophistication fits the timeless appeal of her retro-soul like a glove.
Starting her 50-minute set with her two singles – "Rockferry" and "Warwick Avenue" – and the only two songs of hers most people know, is a bold statement of intent. As the hypnotic "Rockferry" takes hold, Duffy is standing in front of her crack six-piece band. She's not doing much but she doesn't need to. Wearing a simple black top and jeans, she's every inch the wide-eyed 24-year-old who has put Nefyn, her small Welsh hometown, on the map. Only she has a voice like Ronnie Spector's.
Most people so far have compared Duffy to Dusty Springfield but the lead singer of the Ronettes is a much better touchstone. It's something to do with Duffy's yearning, spine-tingling vibrato, and the way she really lets fly in "Warwick Avenue". She's a blank canvas untouched by any notions of cool, yet gifted with an amazing voice and steeped in the tradition of Sandie Shaw and Millie, the Sixties singers she used to watch on an old videotape of her dad's.
The haunting "Stepping Stone" is her most personal song, its "Take me whole or leave me alone" a more empowering message than Dido's "White Flag". "Hanging on Too Long" proves too reminiscent of "I Heard It Through The Grapevine", while "I'm Scared" comes closest to the Motown manqué production style of Mark Ronson, but these are minor quibbles. In the gospel-like "Mercy", Duffy wails like the natural successor to Lulu she is. "I think my make-up is smudged," she admitted earlier, but she's confident enough now.
Duffy plays The Pigalle Club, London W1 (020-7644 1420) for the next three Wednesdays, then tours from 21 February (www.myspace.com/duffymyspace)Reuse content