Candye Kane is a songwriter, exotic personality and, above all, an American blues vocalist. During the early 1980s she became involved in the punk-rock movement, but in 1991 she discovered the music of Big Mama Thornton, Ruth Brown, and Big Maybelle — and she hasn’t looked back.
She is truly one of music’s ultimate survivors. She came from a dysfunctional home life, and later had two children of her own to care for. She was a pin-up girl (to be kind). She’s a cancer survivor. Despite it all, she continues to tour over 200 days a year while producing some of the best traditional blues in the music industry today. In fact, a stage play was written about her life titled The Toughest Girl Alive and to that we can all say, “Amen.”
Kane is about to release her newest studio album, Sister Vagabond. She co-wrote nine of its 13 tracks with her trusty lead guitarist, Laura Chavez. While there are 13 musicians listed, the core group consists of guitarist Chavez, bassist Kennan Shaw, and drummer Paul Fasulo.
She is indeed a blues artist through and through. Her voice was meant to sing the blues, her compositions are about the blues, and Laura Chavez plays nothing but the blues. The album contains no rock, pop, country or fusion whatsoever — just blues.
Kane possesses one of those voices that can wail growl, moan, groan, and even sound seductive upon occasion. She and Chavez also understand how to compose a song, giving them structure and many times a catchy melody. They incorporate a number of instruments into their sound without it coming across as crowded. And the lyrics explore love, rejection and, ultimately, empowerment.
The album begins with the Johnny “Guitar” Watson song, “I Love To Love You.” An ominous lead guitar and the wailing-but-sexy vocal turns this old funk tune into a blues classic. The album’s most interesting track, though, is a cover of the old Brenda Lee Hit, “Sweet Nothin’s.” Kane strips it to its basics, turning it into something that feels like it came right out of the Delta. “Everybody’s Gonna Love Somebody Tonight” is a Jack Tempchin/Glenn Frey composition, and the use of a harmonica on this one underpins its transition to a blues song.
The original compositions form the foundation of the album. “You Never Cross My Mind” has a nice shuffle beat with a piano/bass break in the middle. “Love Insurance” adds horns and a sax to a catchy blues melody. “Side Dish” is about Kane’s desire to be the main course in a relationship. “You Can’t Hurt Me Anymore,” which was written for an ex-lover, includes some tight harmonies.
Candye Kane has released a mature and personal blues album here. If you are someone who appreciates good blues and wants to explore the music of an under-appreciated artist, then Sister Vagabond is for you.