There’s nothing surprising about Welsh singer Duffy’s debut album. It is what it is—a reverential soul revival album, part of a wave of new British R&B that’s following in the wake of Amy Winehouse’s success. Rockferry’s not even particularly interesting. The songs are straightforward and Duffy delivers them without much drama, certainly without the kind of ambiguity that was the hallmark of Dusty Springfield, with whom Duffy has already been compared. Rockferry is NPR soul, an equivalent of Harry Connick Jr. or Norah Jones—R&B for people who think Alicia Keys is just too out there. It’s a remarkably tasteful record.
But sometimes that’s enough. Duffy’s an excellent singer, and her performances on Rockferry are uniformly effortless, from the slow and sultry “Serious” to the lusty, organ-driven rave-up “Mercy.” On the latter track, Duffy delivers just enough ornamentation to complement the lightly funky music underneath her. Nothing fancy—gently reaching into a higher register, a few vocal trills, a couple of extra syllables on the word “believe.” On “Warwick Avenue,” her voice drifts over the melody, demonstrating supreme confidence in her material.