Natalie Duncan – Devil in Me

There is going to be a point in most reviews of Natalie Duncan’s debut album ‘Devil in Me’ where she will be lazily compared to Amy Winehouse, it’s easy to see why but it’s also unfair. A much better comparison would be Nina Simone or Carole King; I would even go so far as to mention Joni Mitchell and Janis Joplin not so much because of a similarity in sound but the attitude, musicianship and longevity on display here. First thing you hear is Duncan’s striking voice ushering in the title track ‘Devil in Me’ it is then joined by her piano and together they are powerful allies and the driving force behind most of the record. There are moments with beautiful string arrangements which although sweeping are never overbearing enough to drown out the warm acoustic guitar which picks and strums its way into the frame, everything balances perfectly but it is when it breaks down to just that voice and keys that Duncan can really shine. Classically trained her piano playing isn’t typical of mainstream music there are times when it feels like you are actually listening to a piece of classical music with soul being sung over the top, it’s a fresh take on an old formula which ends up paying off more than once. Lyrically brave and a tad wounded the honesty of the stories often provides the dark balance to the sweetness of the music and there is no doubt that Natalie is at ease wearing her bleeding heart on her sleeve. From the epic ‘Sky is Falling’ to the brazen ‘She Done Died’ certain sentences hide amongst the compositions ready to jump right out of the songs and bite the listener when you least expect it, cutting through the bruised beauty ‘Like I’m a dying dog and; I’m begging for your bones’. I really only have two minor issues with the record, the first being that after the opening six songs ‘Pick Me Up Bar’, while still being a great tune, feels a little jarring, it’s like when Dylan went electric and almost had me shouting Judas at the stereo but thankfully the album rescues itself with ‘Find Me A Home’ which you could be forgiven for thinking is Radiohead when it starts and for me slowly builds into one of the highlights. Secondly I think the album is two or three tracks too long, I honestly don’t know what I’d cut because there really isn’t a weak song here but 14 tracks just feels too much. All in all though they are small quibbles and ones which shouldn’t detract from what’s on offer, a remarkable talent and an assured debut, these songs are not the sort that will fly to the top of the charts and disappear again just as quick, they are here for the long haul, timeless, classics. If you don’t believe me make a playlist including the artists I mentioned at the start of this review then add in some Cline, Warwick, Turner, Franklin, Springfield, Wells, Ross and any track from this album and hit shuffle, sit back and revel in how much the Natalie track fits when it comes on and just how well it sits in this company, it is that good.

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One Response to Natalie Duncan – Devil in Me

  1. andy duncan says:

    Thank you for such a positive review of my amazing daughter’s album. You have clearly taken the time and effort to listen to it in some depth. Natalie is a very modest and shy person, and doesn’t respond to praise very well, so don’t expect to see her tweeting her life away, or updating her facebook status every 5 minutes, but deep down she really appreciates such comments. I was particulary interested in your remarks about the number of tracks on the album, and the track Pick Me Up Bar. Until quite recently there were only 12 tracks, but her label were so taken by the crowd reaction to this song at gigs, and also to the final track Became So Sweet, that they asked her to record them for the album after it had been finished. That is why they sound different to the others tracks. It’s a moot point whether this was a good idea or not. You can hear a further 3 tracks on the iTunes Deluxe Edition of the album, recorded in the same way.

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