Candye Kane

Swinging the beat, swinging from the heels and coming out from the corner swinging: Each meaning applies to the brilliant new record from the volcanic force of nature that is feminist power poet and vocalist Candye Kane. With her extraordinary guitarist and co-writer Laura Chavez and an exceptional group of musicians highlighted by pianist Sue Palmer, she has created a jukebox for the mind that moves the body and spirit with a broad selection of originals and hip covers. Her voice is a finely-tuned, polished instrument capable of moving effortlessly from a sassy, Etta James blues snarl to a defiant Amy Winehouse ache, the jazzy sophistication of  the “Queen of Swing” Mildred Bailey, and the rockabilly wildness of the young Wanda Jackson.

Candye has come a long ways from her gritty East L.A. roots and a past that reads like modern film noir as candidly presented in her startling play, The Toughest Girl Alive. Now at the peak of her powers intensified and deepened by surviving the vicissitudes of life, she radiates “joie de vivre” in every note as exemplified by the title track. Like “Sing! Sing! Sing!,” it rumbles with “jungle drums” courtesy of Fred Rautman as Candye exults in her brave battle with serious illness and the unconditional support of her soul mate Laura.

Benny Carter’s “Rock Me to Sleep” bops harder and sexier than the vintage Helen Humes version, while Laura swings the rhythm section like mad and burns through her solos like a supercharged T-Bone Walker, the two proving they are the female power duo of the decade.

“Rise Up” struts proudly like Memphis R&B in an anthem dedicated to those who feel marginalized and should raise a fist in the air with the heat of Laura’s incendiary guitar. Driven by the exuberant horn section, “When Tomorrow Comes” exudes the classic soul music message of hope her fans have come to expect from Candye.

The dark-hued, minor key slow blues “Invisible Woman” is the most autobiographical track as Candye exposes her deepest feelings like few other artists. Her biting lyrics “You won’t see me on the newsstand, on the TV, I’m not heard. I’m not thin or young or rich enough to be worshipped by the world; an invisible woman, who everyone looks through. I’m invisible and I’m sitting next to you” refer to her transformation from a voluptuous teen-age sex goddess, desired for her breasts, to a svelte, older and wiser woman, while Laura makes her guitar cry out in mature sympathy beyond her years.

Time traveling to Motown, the Holland-Dozier-Holland ballad “Darling Baby” sounds like it could have been written for Candye as she inhabits the pleading lyrics and the classic doo wop melody with all the passion in her body and soul. Stretching their creative wings, Candye and Laura have fun with “Au Revoir Y’all” and Lalo Guerrero’s “Marijuana Boogie” to close their show with a bit of bi-lingual whimsy about food and weed, respectively. The former mixes booty-shaking funk with a back-snapping shuffle and a stone N’Awlins groove. The latter “tears the roof off the sucka” with blistering tempo, Candye channeling Chicano patois and Laura blazing away in high spirits with a breathtaking, virtuoso performance blending blues, swing jazz, rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll.

Candye and Laura epitomize everything the blues has been, is, and should be: The first true American art form fomented in the South by the oppressed with the unstoppable need to express the sorrows and joys of life through music. Originally combining African and Anglo influences, over time it has absorbed multicultural characteristics resulting in near universal appeal. As a singer with pipes, punch, pride and wisdom and a guitar hero in waiting, Candye and Laura are vital, cliché-busting contributors to our most emotional genre.