Candye Kane featuring Laura Chavez
Coming Out Swingin’
There can be no better proof of Friedrich Nietzche’s oft-quoted thesis “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger” than Candye Kane. The Los Angeles native, who has been performing American music, and blues in particular, since the 1980s, hit a career high water mark with her last two releases. Written and recorded with ace guitarist Laura Chavez, Superhero and Sister Vagabond were some kind of bravura indeed, made as they were after Kane was diagnosed, in 2007, with pancreatic cancer. Those achievements, and the heavy touring schedule she maintains, comprise a remarkable display of defiance, courage, and creativity–an artistic winning streak that continues on Kane’s brand new CD, Coming Out Swingin’, a varied set of roots music.
That aptly titled cut opens the program with Fred Rautman’s thumping drums, then unfurls into a hard-swinging number. Like a jump blues band-scaled version of the Brian Setzer Orchestra, the soloists–on guitar, clarinet, piano, trumpet, and trombone–trade eights during a frenetic middle section. Assertive and assured as ever, Candye sounds a warning to stay out of her way and testifies to the strength she draws from her supporters. In “I’m The Reason Why You Drink,” a tough box shuffle with stormy accents, Kane answers (somewhat mysteriously) in the first person the question why some can’t drink like gentlemen. Take note of Billy Watson’s gritty harmonica break and Chavez’s guitar solo, in Buddy Guy’s early style. With brash tone and a wily, descending-chord approach, Chavez drives the swinging “You Ain’t All That”; her solo expertly echoes the snarl in Kane’s lyric, an unabashed putdown nearly as unrelenting as “Positively 4th Street.” The slow, minor blues “Invisible Woman” addresses the unfair challenge faced by the vast majority of women who do not meet the standard of physical perfection pushed by the media and advertisers. Kane’s all-too-accurate lyrics are matched by Chavez’s inspired guitar work, a marvelous display of dynamics and phrasing.
Swingin’ includes a number of soul-inflected cuts. In Kane’s hands, the Elgins’ gorgeous mid-tempo R&B ballad “Darling Baby” sounds about 10 years older than its 1965 origins, due chiefly to an arrangement that leans heavily Jonny Viau’s saxophones and the romantic grind of the rhythm section (Rautman and Kennan Shaw, bass). Rick Estrin’s “What Love Can Do,” another suave, impassioned number from the same, doo-wop-inflected tradition, is handled to perfection. Moving forward stylistically, “When Tomorrow Comes” is jaunty soul in the mode of Solomon Burke’s classic Atlantic sides. The horns, by Viau, Bill Caballero, and April West, combine with Lee Dombecki’s organ to make a luscious bed. Chavez’s solo is both melodically and rhythmically hip. Finally, the rip-roaring R&B stunner “Rise Up!” nods to the dramatic buildup in the Spencer Davis Group’s “Gimme Some Lovin’” and features a beautiful, hushed breakdown in the middle section. The horn charts, including call-and-response during the verse and a chorus part that buoys the whole enterprise, are outstanding.
Kane and Chavez tackle other genres with equal success. “I Wanted You To Walk (Right Through That Door),” a unique minor key number, is marked by a brisk two-step beat; deep, spy-film-soundtrack tremolo on the guitar amp (and more brilliantly creative playing by Chavez); and a terse, effective harp break. The lyric extends the great tradition of clock-watching songs; I love the shiver in Candye’s voice at the 1:55 mark–eight p.m., by the song’s timeline. Kane sings the roots-rocking “Barbed Wire Mouth” with attitude to spare. Chavez singes it with breaks straight out of “The Crawl” and adds a few space guitar touches. Her introduction to “Au Revoir Y’all” has a bit of the flavor of Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell”’; her solo conjures images of a daredevil aerialist in free flight, over a New Orleans, second-line groove. In closing the album, the band swings Lalo Guerrero’s “Marijuana Boogie” at a smoking (ahem) pace, with fat guitar chords, cymbal hits, and Kane’s rap en Español giving way to Sue Palmer’s powerhouse, boogie-woogie piano break.
Laura Chavez commands every bag she plays in, and her red Stratocaster sounds oh, so good. Anything I say about her tone, touch, taste, and style would fall short: She is a key player, and a star. And Candye Kane’s richly textured voice is better than ever. Her confidence, emotion, and intelligence are always unquestioned, and her technique, with effects like swoops, squeals, and glides; vibrato; dynamic volume and intensity; and perfect phrasing, cuts across the range of styles on Swingin’. Together, they are at the top of their game, and Coming Out Swingin’ is a splendid album. Long may Candye Kane continue to carry her message of hope, and to make music as irresistible as this.
CD for review was provided by Vizztone Records.