If Candi Staton had ceased recording 30 years ago, she would still be guaranteed a place in soul music’s Hall Of Fame. In a richly fertile 13-year period (1969-82) that saw her morph from a sultry Southern soul siren into a platform-soled disco diva, the husky-voiced Alabama chanteuse racked up a slew of memorable hits that guaranteed her immortality.
In the early 80s, personal problems made Staton take stock of her life and she retreated into gospel music, where she mostly stayed until 1999’s Outside In, her first secular album in 17 years. That seemed a one-off until 2006’s marvellous With These Hands, which re-established her as the doyenne of country-soul. The rough-hewn retro vibe of that opus is retained on this new 11- track studio offering helmed (like its predecessor) by Lambchop member Mark Nevers.
Despite her 66 years, Staton’s voice remains a remarkable instrument, its throaty, passionate rawness mining a deep vein of cathartic intensity on compelling tracks such as the poignant opener, Breaking Down Slow, the infectious Cry Baby Cry and a haunting acoustic version of Mary Gauthier’s Mercy Now. You won’t hear many better albums than this in 2009.