Reviewed by Tony Cummings
Any long term Candi Staton fan will be puzzled with the news that this, the 27th album by the soul and gospel star, recently registered in America's official Americana chart. In fact, this doesn't indicate another style change for the singer who down the decades has worked in traditional gospel, Southern soul, disco and dance music. In fact, that Americana chart appearance says more about the nebulous nature of that particular "genre". Ironically, 'Life Happens' is very much in the Southern soul vein which brought Candi big R&B hits in the '60s and in fact Rick Hall, the legendary producer and Fame studio owner is the executive producer of this set. Southern soul with its timeless blend of church-reared singers and emotion-drenched songs that often emanate from country music songsmiths as well as R&B ones is a music form perfect for Candi's biting, bitter sweet vocals. Even at age 74 this singing phenomenon shows no sign of losing her ability to ring pathos and drama from songs of love and lost love, the album opening with "I Ain't Easy To Love" to which Jason Isbell and John Paul White of the Civil Wars add their considerable vocal talents and which features juicy Hammond B-3 chords and some classic Memphis-style brass stabs. Then comes "Never Even Had The Chance", a fine country song transformed to Southern soul melodrama ("So you'll have to excuse me while I fall apart/But I'll be the stronger one later on"). Elsewhere there's some sassy funk, the borrowing of Police's "Every Step I Take" riff on "Commitment" and some of her telling lyrics where, with righteous fire, Candi lambasts video gaming, social media and street violence. Maybe there's not a track on here quite up to the classic status of her 2006 "His Hands" but this is still a fine album from the most gifted of divas.
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