Nathalie Duncan ‘Devil in me’ (Verve) 3/5

Here is a very enterprising debut from a Nottingham singer who belongs very much to the singer-songwriter branch of music and has been championed by BBC presenter and fellow musician Jamie Cullum. Duncan’s soulful vocals come shining through on pieces such as ‘Blackthorn’ with a pared down sound on acoustic guitar and bass recalling the flavour of 1970s Bill Withers while Joni Mitchell is evoked on ‘Old rock’ with a classical-inspired piano intro. Elswehere ‘Lonely child’ has a distinctive American roots feel while reggae instrumentation and dub echo on guitar are prominent on ‘Pick me up bar’. The singer works best on the minor key numbers with ‘Keep her smiling’ the leading contender and featuring some fine use of fender rhodes and strings. This could easily have been penned by Roberta Flack in the early 1970s and deserves to be put out as a single to showcase the album as a whole. The soulful credentials of Nathalie Duncan are no better illustrated than on the uplifting ‘Became so sweet’ that ends the album on a high note complete with Chic-esque riffs on guitar. A little work on individualising the piano sound is stil in order, but the voice alone is worth the admission fee. No indication of the other musicians involved. A promising future beckons for Nathalie Douncan. Tim Stenhouse

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