One of the most surprising releases that has been my absolute pleasure to hear recently comes from one of the most colorful artists to emerge from the Southern California blues scene in the form of the one and only Candye Kane. I say one and only because there is without a doubt no other artist quite like her.
Her latest release, The Toughest Girl Alive, reaffirms that with a style that has become her own signature. The big lady with the big voice and personality to match returns with 13 numbers that are somewhat auto-biographical, drawing on her own personal school of tough knocks at times. After the trials and tribulations of being an unwed teen mother, a stint as an adult model/film star, and various record producers trying to put her musical energies into country and (of all things) Christian music, Candye has persevered in both her bravado attitude and her music.
Toughest Girl Alive is her best work to date. Sporting one of the most powerfully sweet voices in the swing/blues genre, Kane’s nine original works are well written and smokingly performed with an angelic voice wrapped around a tough as nails delivery.
The album's opening title number is an upbeat swinging testament to Candye's driving determination to come out on top no matter what curveball life may throw her way, while spotlighting the fine piano work of Marcia Ball. "Who Do You Love" follows with the fiery guitar notes of Dave Alvin helping to deliver the message of whatever your personal quirks may be when it comes to love, it's alright.... as long as it comes from the heart.
The gospel/country overtones of "One More Day" will probably be played in roadhouses for years to come due to it's honky tonk stylings, with the same scenario applicable to the 40s- ish feel of "She Was My Baby Last Night," along with the Harold Arlen's "Get Happy" in a swing setting.
Known for her sometimes spicy lyrics and very adult innuendos, Candye does not disappoint on this release with the slightly silly, but playful humor of "For Your Love" giving way to the joyfully naughty bop of "Let's Commit Adultery" a few tunes later.
This release succeeds on so many different levels I scarcely know where to begin. Production, performance, arrangement, songwriting, and musicianship are all expertly presented to the listener as one of the lushest sounding recordings I've heard as of late. With previous releases to her credit, Candye Kane has been one of those artists that people always ask about when they hear her music, but never take the time to explore further. Toughest Girl Alive should put her way over the top with both critics and the public alike who have not taken this fabulously talented singer seriously. This whale of a CD is both tough and tender with the mettle and potential to be one of the sleeper hits of the summer. A must hear!
--- Steve Hinrichsen
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