Monday, January 21, 2008

Aladamabama

     I suppose it's become a truism here on The Driftwood Singers Present that Alabama is the real semi-secret ground zero of American music (Lefty's recent post on Shelby Lynne reminded me of this, and Mr. Poncho has written on the subject).  I mean, jeez--there's Hank Williams, Sun Ra, the Commodores, Tammy Wynette, the Louvins, Taylor Hicks (kidding!)-- the list goes on and on.  You can add Candi Staton to said list.  She hails from the town of Hanceville (pop. 800), and had the archetypal Southern upbringing--picking cotton, singing in the church choir, growing up poor but happy, as she says.  She started out singing in a gospel group while still a child and wound up touring with various combos into her teen years.  She quit the gospel game in her late teens due to the difficulty of life on the road, got married and started raising a family.  Unfortunately, her husband was the prototypical jealous jerk, and it wasn't long before Candi left him and started singing again--but now she was singing soul instead of gospel.  She was hired by  Clarence Carter to sing in his band, and eventually this lead to Rick Hall getting her into FAME studios in Muscle Shoals to record some songs.  She had a bunch of hits on the R&B charts in the early '70s, but her biggest one came after she left Alabama and went to California to record (it was the disco smash "Young Hearts Run Free").   After a number of years of drug & alcohol abuse she bottomed out, quit drinking and went back to singing gospel.  She recently recorded a disc of soul tunes here in Nashville, and it's okay but it just doesn't compare to her classic FAME recordings (oddly enough, a guy I used to work with at a local record store plays acoustic guitar on it).
     This is great stuff.  Candi's voice is just so full of  grit and emotion, and the little-known players and backup singers on these records were so good.  There's a real country feel to her stuff, too (as a matter of fact, she does a version of "Stand By Your Man").  To be sure, there are some Aretha-isms (check out the way the backups sing "wo-man" on "Another Man's Woman").  But listen to the way she pronounces the phrase "my poor heart" and then how she enunciates the word "captivity" in "I'm Just a Prisoner (Of Your Good Lovin')".  I love that.  It just gets you right in the gut (or , well, the heart).  Some fine examples of down 'n dirty Southern soul.   

1 comment:

jonderneathica said...

Yes! I read about these early Candi Staton recordings on another blog last year and immediately ordered the compilation CD (on Honest Jon Records). Candi lives here in Georgia now, and has experienced a recent resurgence in popularity due to some British electronic music producers who sampled her extraordinary voice.