It’s no doubt over simplification, but for me, it all starts with Laura Nyro.
Without her, there’s no Kate Bush.
No Tori Amos.
To a lesser degree, I also think she may have made it possible for the Laurel Canyon scene to happen, even if she was from east coast, and Joni Mitchell trailed Nyro’s debut by only a year or so.
And yes, there were many great women musical artists before Nyro–everyone from Wanda Jackson to Nina Simone to Dusty Springfield to Joan Baez–but there was something about Nyro that signaled a major change, that opened up new avenues even if pompous asshole music critics like Robert Christgau dismissed her as ‘hypersensitive.’
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It’s odd that it’s been 10 years since Duffy’s album, Rockferry, came out. Odd mainly that she seemed destined for greatness and then kind of disappeared after a follow-up that didn’t grab much attention.
(There are reasons for that disappearance that you can look up, but let’s just say they are distressingly familiar.)
I find myself returning to the album frequently, a collection of elegant pop songs of heartache and longing that, like Amy Winehouse’s work, reference American R&B without coming off like some kind of cultural appropriation.
In a way, the mood of Rockferry is akin to that of Dusty Springfield’s best work, in that it honors but doesn’t imitate its influences.
I think the song that most resonates, or lingers, with me is Warwick Avenue, a rather dreamy discourse on a love that seems lopsided, or one sided, prompting Duffy to declare that the meeting about to take place is going to be the last one.
Everything about it is meticulous, from the strings that carry her through the chorus to the twinge of ache in her voice.
I’ve read that she is working on a comeback, and I hope that is true. If she has anything in her that approaches the bittersweet hurt of this track, it would be a welcome return.