When it comes to music I can still appreciate a good surprise. Most of the time, I’m quite content with my life being fairly uneventful. When the majority of past surprises have been unpleasant, you gain an appreciation for anything resembling mundane. But with an overwhelming amount of music these days being predictable to the point of nausea almost anything even a little bit surprising is like a breath of fresh air.
Although I had already heard the title track of Candye Kane’s 2005 release White Trash Girl and enjoyed it immensely, listening to the entire album was an eye opener. I already knew she was more than capable of singing big and brassy blues’ tunes, but what I hadn’t foreseen was the diversity of song styling she was capable of rendering and her refreshing attitude towards life.
If you go to her website or buy her disc you can find out about her life in detail, but in a nutshell she’s managed to raise two children on her own, find the courage to risk following her dreams, and retain a healthy understanding and respect for who she is and where she came from. If half the so-called celebrities who claim to be musicians had an iota of this woman’s integrity, they might have enough respect for themselves and their music to be more than cogs in a marketing director’s wheels.
Her music reflects both her honesty about who she is and her amazing ability to laugh at herself while never once diminishing herself as a person. From the title track “White Trash Girl”, where she laughs at all the stereotypes about poor single women, to “Work What You Got”, an admonishment to her fellow women to make the best of their situations and the gifts they were given in, to her cover of Bull Moose Jackson’s “Big Fat Mamas are Back In Style” where she glories in the fact that she’s definitely not a petite.
But what I found most impressive about her, which was the pleasant surprise, was the variety of music she not only performs, but also has the ability to write. She sites Jerry Lee Lewis as one of her old favourites, so “Work What You Got” being reminiscent of “Great Balls Of Fire” isn’t too surprising. Her masterful delivery and timing during the song make it a whole lot of fun. It’s her ability to do the non-traditional blues/rock and roll song that makes her disc much more interesting than the average disc of this type.
“It Must Be Love” is a great example of her ability to do Big-Band/Show tune type music with more panache and style then I’ve heard in ages. From the swing of the music, to the horn section, right down to the call and response of the background chorus of male singers, it sounds like it was written in another era. But she also makes it work as a contemporary piece with the lyrical content and the power of her personality.
For those types of songs to work the singer has to be able to sell it to the audience. They involve a lot more work than just standing up and making sure you sing in tune and on key. A singer has to be willing to perform the song like she was acting a role on stage, (hence the term “show tune” even if they aren’t associated with a play), in order for it to work. To be able to carry a tune like that off as Candye does is an amazing in and of itself. The fact that she also wrote the lyrics to work with the music is even more of an accomplishment.
It’s an unfortunate reality that most ballads or slow songs today are ruined by the lack of sincerity in the performer’s presentation. They swoop their voices up and down the scales with no real attention to what they’re doing other than trying to distract the audience with vocal pyrotechnics. On “I Could Fall For You” Candye shows them how it should be done, worrying more about the content of the song and ensuring the lyrics are sung with genuine feeling when it matters instead of beating them to death with a stick for the length and breadth of the song.
Of course she can also cut loose with the best of them, and on her barrelhouse type numbers like “Misunderstood” or her cover of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller’s “I Wanna Be More” it’s impossible not to get caught up in her enthusiasm for the music and the song. Speaking of covers, she takes the old John Sebastian tune “What A Day For A Daydream” and makes it her own while preserving the original whimsy.
It’s not often that we get performers anymore who have the combination of ability and strength of personality to carry off the types of songs and music that Candye Kane performs. Pick up a copy of White Trash Girl and be pleasantly surprised by what you hear, and how much you enjoy it. There’s a lot more to this girl than just one dimension of the blues.