Voodoo Blues is a showcase for the intense, electrifying vocals of Irish singer and guitar player Gráinne Duffy, who wrote all the songs on this album with her rhythm guitarist, Paul Sherry. Her blues-infused rock packs a potent punch. She was voted best female vocalist in 2014 and best artist in 2015 by Blues Matters, a U.K. publication. Her artistry has been honed with a degree in music, and she has four previous albums under her belt. Her guitar influences include Peter Green and B.B. King, and she was initially inspired as a songwriter by Carole King’s Tapestry album.
Voodoo Blues blasts off with the title track, a hard rockin’ number that leaves no doubt as to Duffy’s impressive voice. It’s raw and expressive with a toughness that is anything but ladylike. The dense, driving rhythmic instrumentation of “Mercy” is perfectly offset by her soaring vocals as she begs to be saved in this soul-drenched number. Duffy lightens it up but stays in the groove with the buoyant, hip-shakin’ “Blue Skies.”
Her guitar work moves to the fore in the captivating “Shine It on Me.” Duffy slows it down for “Don’t You Cry for Me,” a gospel-tinged ballad that shines a spotlight on her exceptional voice. It’s an effective contrast with the effervescent vigor of “Roll It.”
“Wreck It Up” is a highlight of the album, launched with a gritty rock-guitar intro reminiscent of the Stones, an early influence, then Duffy tears up the joint with her rousing vocals and more guitar. The mood turns wistful, but she keeps her passion dialed high for “No Matter What I Do.” In “Tick-Tock,” she boosts the energy, enhanced by prominent guitar backing. To close the album, Duffy revs up the horsepower and lays down the law with “Hard Rain,” a fierce, driving declaration of determination.
It’s a short ride and may not appeal to blues purists, but Voodoo Blues is a superb vehicle for Gráinne Duffy’s vocal prowess, as well as her songwriting skill. Her band lays down a full, robust sound, rich with organ and muscular rhythms, to ramp up the edginess of her music. We’re left convinced that Duffy is a talent to watch. (Sandra B. Tooze)