If ever there was a time for optimism, positivity, faith and hope, this is it. For blues fans, our beloved music is a lifeline, and because it is shared with a global community we are never alone. As John Lee Hooker reminded us in his 1989 comeback album, The Healer: “The blues is a healer all over the world, it healed me it can heal you.” At a time of increasing gloom and doom it is important to look out for and to share the green shoots of recovery. One such moment is “Blue Skies,” as Irish guitarist, songwriter and chanteuse Gráinne Duffy looks beyond the dark clouds to those clear blue skies. This punchy, upbeat, hard-riffing blues track stays in the listener’s psyche for a long time — the perfect antidote to current woes.
A compatriot of and spiritual successor to Rory Gallagher, multi-award winning and Glastonbury favorite Duffy has legendary status in her native Ireland and beyond. Anyone not familiar with her music should think Bonnie Raitt meets Joe Walsh (to use an American analogy), but even this comparison does a serious disservice to Gráinne’s distinctive musical identity. What makes her unique is the innovative blend of blues, rock, Americana, country and Celtic influences, inspirational songwriting and performances characterized by intense, emotional vocals and dazzling fretwork.
The infectious riff precedes Gráinne’s smoky, powerful vocals reaching an eruptive crescendo with the chorus, “I got the blue skies baby up above / I got the bright lights burning and I just can’t get enough.” The singer is clearly in a good place and enjoying the vibe which she transmits with her trademark sincerity and raw energy, complemented by atmospheric background vocals. Duffy’s piercing guitar interludes are timely and tasteful with virtuosic guitarist Paul Sherry maintaining the mesmeric pace and rhythm alongside the dynamic drums and bass. Gráinne’s superb vocal range is evident as she softens her voice to add drama to the beautifully crafted lyrics which reflect the happiness in her life and career. Gráinne never loses the pure joy of singing, and she exudes the cheerfulness we all need to reassure us at this difficult time.
Remember the wise words of the UK journalist and writer Allison Pearson: “Viruses come and go, but spring returns. Always has, always will, bringing new life new hope.”
You can hear more of Gráinne Duffy on her highly acclaimed 2017 album Where I Belong while waiting for her new CD release later in the year.