Writing songs about heartache and relationships gone wrong is nothing new. It has probably been a staple topic ever since people started writing songs. Emily Duff has made an entire album – with her own spin – entitled Born on the Ground with nine songs about heartache and lost love. Of this collection of songs, she said, “I wanted to examine emotional wounds through the mature lens of time.”
Duff’s music has been described as “City punk meets country soul.” That seems like a lot of different things to fit into such a short description. However, it doesn’t take long to realize that her sound does in fact include all of the things in that description.
If examining emotional wounds is the goal of this album, she doesn’t waste any time or mince any words in the first song “We Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.” The song begins with a combination of organ and guitar tones that sound like something out of the Sly and The Family Stone songbook. Then comes the venom in the lyrics, “Bad ideas just pour from your mouth. Baby, shut your hole and don’t let ‘em out.” That’s certainly one way to deal with an emotional scar.
Throughout the album, you hear soulful organ and vocals that combine the soul of Susan Tedeschi with the occasional toughness of Wanda Jackson. Meanwhile, you also hear a lot of guitar riffs that would fit just as well in an Old 97s song.
“No Escape” is a great example of just how broad Duff’s sound is. This song features some honky-tonk piano and an organ part that is pure 60s garage. Duff then flawlessly ties the whole thing together with torch-song vocals that invoke images of cocktail gowns and grand pianos.
While a lot of the songs are upbeat, “Knuckle Sandwich” is surprisingly so in comparison to the songs that precede it. The energy and the beat are reminiscent of Reverend Horton Heat. The lyrics carry the fiery spirit of “Fist City” by Loretta Lynn. It’s easy to imagine a room full of people getting fired up when this song is played live.
For an album about heartache, it would have been easy for Duff to dwell in the sad honky-tonk sounds that are a staple of heartbreak songs. Instead, she created these songs at the intersection of country and soul. On top of that, she included a punk attitude with hard-hitting lyrics when they are needed. The album isn’t very long, but the songs are powerful and unpredictable. Born on the Ground , produced by Eric “Roscoe” Ambel, will be available everywhere on June 26. Order your copy here.