REVIEW: Emily Duff’s “Born on the Ground” is Unique Pedigree of Cosmopolitan Country


Released March 6th this interesting 9-track collection of “love” songs trace 9 different breakups from the artist’s past. Curiously Emily looks back without anger – and with the help of the formidable producer Eric “Roscoe” Ambel (The Del-Lords), Ms. Duff bravely explores her wounds through this well-articulated NY recording.

Having been familiar with Ms. Duff’s work I was confident she’d showcase her material in a mature & unique manner. Despite her NY residence, her voice on Born On the Ground, (Independent) is genuine Americana. The tonality is filled with the necessary rich soil, barn burning, whiskey driven dancehall ass-kicking, get behind the plow attitude.

Emily is not an artist stuck to the flypaper of country mediocrity. Each tune possesses its own degree of sincerity, but all have the tight performance of a good storyteller. Emily blends styles effectively, Reba McIntyre’s vitality with a little Lucinda Williams grit produces quite a unique pedigree of cosmopolitan country.

“Easy Go!” is spritely upbeat with Brenda Lee proficiency & Reba energy. It unleashes a dynamic without being too commercial, or silly. No “Harper Valley PTA” novelty on this LP. The guitars chime with just enough rock to elevate the country feel to a generous head boppin’ handclapping sear.

While not tightening up too much on her country vocals to sound Hee-Haw in approach, the reliable & confident Emily delivers her ballads with a retro dexterity that never suffers from an old-fashioned posture. “There Is a Way Out,” & “Forever Love,” are beauties.  At times piano-driven with tougher lyrics, she manages to remain compassionate.

“No Escape,” skims the edge of the retro cup but never falls into a vintage mix. The guitar is somewhat Duane Eddy in tradition but only as decorative. Emily’s voice provides a brittle veneer — whiskey-soaked like Lucinda Williams or Genya Ravan & with effective delicate degrees. This is a keeper.

A 60s guitar strums & Emily’s voice is authoritative on the really cool “Something Sexy.” Shania Twain & Taylor Swift have nothing on this lady when she fires on all cylinders — she’s a well-tuned vocal engine. There’s potency in “Knuckle Sandwich,” too & it kicks from the first notes. Incendiary guitars & in your face vocals – jukebox gold. Emily provides this tune with a twist of Suzie Quatro & a dash of Joan Jett.

Emily’s band of proficient talent: Scott Aldrich, Skip Ward, Charlie Giordano, & Kenny Soule. Eric Ambel adds guitars, with Syd Straw, Mary Lee Kortes & Tricia Scotti on backup vocals.

Yes, it’s music that is done with expertise. It avoids showboating, no vocal athletics, though at times exciting. No wild solos or bombastic lyrics. Just a solid set.

Want to get away from commercial inane popish country music? I’d put my money on this mature collection swabbed with purity. Isn’t that what country music is all about?

All songs by Emily Duff. The CD is available at Bandcamp:

Leave a Reply!