Reviewed by Tony Cummings
Back in the '60s when I first listened to music that made me weak at the knees it was a particular kind of soul music - where the lyrical melodrama and instrumental dexterity of white country musicians was fused to the earthy music of church-raised R&B singers - which made me swoon. This "deep" or "southern" soul didn't remain a mainstream style for too long, of course. Styles in soul/R&B moved on and today the brooding power and cathartic passion of the deep soul sub-genre is in the main enjoyed only by aging soul music connoisseurs who recognise the white country/black gospel-R&B musical collision (brilliantly documented in the Barney Hoskyns book Say It One Time For The Broken Hearted) as one of the greatest ever forms of popular music. Now, astonishingly, comes this album which seemingly seeks to single-handedly thrust deep soul back into the mainstream spotlight. Judging from the rave reviews 'His Hands' has received from the critics, producer Mark Nevens and that most reliable of divas Candi Staton could be on to something. Candi is, of course, one of R&B and gospel's most treasured vocal talents. Although disco fans will name "Young Hearts Run Free" and house music buffs "You've Got The Love" as Candi's finest moments, those in the know will reel off a string of Muscle Shoals recorded Southern soul classics Candi cut with Fame Records as the singer at her creative peak. Now the sound and feel of those old school delights are recreated in a Nashville studio with a bunch of hand picked musos (including the incomparable keyboards whiz Barry Beckett), a sassy horn section and a set of songs from the pens of old time R&B talents (Tommy Tate and Candi herself) and country music's finest (Merle Haggard, Charlie Rich). The lyrics here are mainly concerned with lost love and are interpreted with knowing, understated passion by Candi as the B3 organ warbles, the strings sigh and the righteous backup sisters coo in sympathy. The piece de resistance here is the Will Oldham-penned title track which leads us from the sad, broken remembrances of the past delights brought by a lover's hands to the sublime wonder of the joy wrought by the hands of the living God. Considering its daring theme, "His Hands" is a song few Christian radio stations will dare to play. But it is, unquestionably, a stone classic and the pinnacle of a dazzling album. And Candi still references her restored Christian faith with the self-penned "I'll Sing A Love Song To You". If there was any justice this album would sell 10 times as many copies as the ludicrously overrated Joss Stone. But even if it remains largely one for cool critics and soul music anoraks, make sure you check it out.
The opinions expressed in this article are
not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed
views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may
not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a
Interested in reviewing music? Find out