Emily Duff claims to have been raised by a pack of cigarettes. Her husky, twangy vocals sound like they might have slipped out of a cowboy’s sack of roll-your-owns. But Duff was born and raised in an urban environment, a New Yorker by birth and a punker by nature, gravitating to the CBGB pastures to nurture her budding musicianship in her formative years. But somewhere along the way, she got westward longings mixed up with her love for gospel and soul, and now she sounds like one a them sultry cowpoker ladies from the flatlands.
Scooping the guts out of Lou Ann Barton and borrowing Teresa James’ tonsils, Duff comes out smokin’ on “We Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere,” telling a no-good sumbitch and soon-to-be ex-beloved to get off the train — he’s carrying too much baggage and she ain’t gonna be payin’ the fare any more.
Duff’s theme throughout is breakup and paybacks, and she delivers a pretty good ass-whupping to the romantic miscreants who’ve stomped holes in her heart. She lets them know just who they’re messing with on the title cut, telling a former Romeo that “when you’re born on the ground, you’re dead inside.”
And if her deadly insides weren’t packing enough payback, Duff vows to add a little more oomph to the ejection seat with a “Knuckle Sandwich.” She’ll be your server, but you might not care for what’s on the menu. The sole item seems to be the aforementioned fist city entree, which she offers to deliver up with a memorable presentation:“How ‘bout my fist down your throat?”
“Easy Go” sounds like something Tanya Tucker could have recorded back in the day when she was still asking Delta Dawn questions. Duff’s last album was recorded at Muscle Shoals, and even though this one was recorded live in Brooklyn, it still has that Swampers vibe shining through, dripping with country soul.
It starts out on a country road, but “There’s a Way Out” meanders a bit, morphing in and out of a Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes feel with Lou Ann Barton fronting the proceedings.
“Something Sexy” is one of the best rub-it-in-your-face songs to come along in decades. Duff hands out a brutal rejection slip, telling her past-tense lover to “say goodbye forever to what you never had,” driving home her point with a barbed farewell: “She’s a phenomenon, she’s something sexy all right, but she’s already gone.”
Duff is a purveyor of tough sounds for tough love. You wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of it, but it makes for some mighty fine eavesdropping.