This weekend marks the long-awaited Toronto arrival of the new British queen of soul - Duffy. She's the antithesis of Amy Winehouse: doesn't party, career on track, no destructively influential boyfriend dragging her down. Great skin complexion on top it all.
But unlike her sniffling, underweight counterpart she's dogged by issues of authenticity. If anything Whinehous's exploits are giving her great soul-wrenching ammunition for the next album. Duffy, on the other hand, is a blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl next door type who comes from a small Welsh village called Nefyn. With that upbringing, how did soul music ever enter her world?
His name is Bernard Butler and he's become something of a British Timbaland. Butler produced Duffy's surging debut Rockferry, after having met her through industry acquaintances in the early stages of her career. He took her under his wing, loaded up her iPod with soul tunes he felt she needed to know. They bided their time and then Mark Ronson-ed her record. Skeptics will say the timing has been impeccable.
He's also behind the recently-released Partie Traumatic, the debut album by Florida's the Black Kids. The Cure-cloning full length is storming overseas, but getting mixed reviews on our side. Sound wise, the two debuts have little in common other than the same producer behind the board, but the Kids share Duffy's plight regarding questions of legitimacy. Barely two years old, Black Kids are questionable live, and some might say a touch over-hyped since their Wizard of Ahhhs EP dropped. However, much of that critical love has fallen wayside with recent revelations the piece-five used to be a Christian ska- rock band.
Duffy's is the far more successful of Butler's two productions, as she enjoys the cross-over dessert Whinehouse left in the fridge. While Rockberry jockeys on the charts with Coldplay, and the Black Kids get the ephemeral NME indie star treatment, Butler's work schedule has exploded. He's currently working with the 1990s, a teenage Scottish twee trio likely to strike large. He's also rumoured to be involved with Tricky's new album. If Butler can raise the spectre of trip hop and make it sellable, it surely will be his greatest accomplishment.
Duffy does the Phoenix on Saturday (Aug. 2), and look out for the Black Kids at the Mod Club October 5