Devil Doll (AKA Colleen Duffy), is making her return after a six-year-long hiatus with a new thirteen track album titled “Lover & a Fighter”, which was released on May 1st. With songs that vary in mood from seductive, sultry, boot stomppin attitude, heartache, and spiritual awakening; all in her own rockabilly, cabaret style.
You will hear southern rock guitar grooves, rock organ, strings, slide guitar, bluesy solos, horns, upbeat drums, slow march beats, as well as vocals that are intimate at times, powerful at others. And it features contributions from The Who’s Jon Button on bass. It is aggressive, and melancholy, with a side of inner fire and sarcastic indignation that moves headstrong into adversity.
Duffy speaks about the album title and artistic intent
I thought ‘lover and a fighter’ was such a great phrase to embody this song and the record. It shows women being strong, sticking together and not taking any shit, but also rewarding men for being decent. If the title track was a film it would probably be Faster Pussycat Kill Kill. I thought trying to write my own version of a female anthem like Joan Jett’s ‘Cherry Bomb’ would be really fun and empowering.
The opening track “You Can’t Have Me,” begins with a big declarative dominant chord swell in the brass section and drum rolls, immediately followed by a tonic chord hit. The song then turns into a slow waltz, with an enticing dark cabaret feel. As the song progresses, guitar vamps, chromatic piano ornaments and trills, horns and accordion pulsing the waltz rhythm, all create a groove to enhance Duffy’s sultry seductive vocal performance.
The composition is well orchestrated as each instrument finds its own place in the balance and will emerge from the background to add short melodic lines and flourishes throughout.
“Forsaken” begins with strings and keys, then vocals enter singing of woe with a freetime rubato feel. The song continues with minor harmonies and somber moods, but with attitude and character. Dark lyrics, western guitar riffs, male vocals chorus, and string parts happen mostly throughout as the song develops. Interplay between violin and guitar vamps, and a violin solo add another layer of dimension and interest to the song.
The title track “Lover & a Fighter” has an upbeat southern rock vibe, with fast drums and guitar grooves. Touting a shittkickin outlaw attitude that doesn’t take any crap. These more upbeat songs are contrasted with the second half of the album being mostly slower ballads. “Steeltown “Heart” is one such ballad.
With slide guitar giving off a blues country vibe, bringing to mind the likes of old country-western classics. Duffy remarks:
This song was written as a sort of hat-tip to Hank Williams and Patsy Cline. I grew up listening to Hank and became fascinated with Patsy Cline in my teen years. I was always so taken with the country music that was coming out of that era, and the honesty that unfolded verse by verse.
There was a fearlessness in the storytelling yet this otherworldly quality in both of their voices. It was as if they could pierce their notes straight through your soul unapologetically and keep going without skipping a beat or missing a note. They would confess these stories of such heartbreak and loneliness that these songs would become like safe havens for the lost.
Man… I don’t know if I could ever deliver a song with the same air-chilling boldness that they could, but ‘Steeltown Heart’ is my best shot so far. It’s a “not all that glitters is gold” story about the departure from Los Angeles and the return back home to Cleveland, where I grew up near the steel mills.
Devil Doll continues the omage to old classics with two covers, Conway Twitty’s “It’s Only Make Believe” and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man”. Duffy makes these songs her own with her unique vocal interpretation and with a violin and guitar solo duel in “Simple Man”.
Lover & a Fighter indeed has songs of love and songs of fighting, in their many different forms. Fans of old country and southern rock, as well as new rockabilly cabaret, will appreciate this record. In a lot of ways, the lyric contents of these songs is similar to the rich storytelling within classic country music. And the music represents the moods and enhances the stories that the lyrics tell.