The Women Who Raised Me Kandace Springs
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- 1Devil May Care02:59
- 2Angel Eyes06:00
- 3I Put A Spell On You03:57
- 6I Can't Make You Love Me04:35
- 7Gentle Rain03:55
- 9The Nearness Of You03:36
- 10What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life03:59
- 11Killing Me Softly With His Song05:17
- 12Strange Fruit03:36
Info for The Women Who Raised Me
From the first second of Kandace Springs‘ new album – as those warm, hand-plucked bass notes fill the air – you know you’ve arrived at something different. And once she starts singing, well, it’s pretty clear “The Women Who Raised Me” exists apart from the normal rules that govern space, time, and talent. While 2018’s “Indigo” album found the Nashville singer-pianist using modern production to bend sound into new genre forms in collaboration with Karriem Riggins, this set adheres sonically to jazz while Springs travels back and forth across a near-century of music. While the feel is as rich and complex as our host’s voice, the concept is simple. Springs covers the women who inspired her while she was growing up, putting her own spin on songs associated with a dozen of the greatest female vocalists of all-time.
„This is an album I’ve been wanting to make forever,“ says Springs. „It really expresses my love for all of these singers and gratitude for what they gave me. Each taught me something different and all of those lessons combined to make me who I am now. In a way, all I’m trying to do every day is live up to the examples they set. My dream is that people will listen to my album and then want to go learn more about all of these great women. If that happens, then I’ve done my job.“
Of course, you’ll want to spend some quality time with “The Women Who Raised Me” first. While the project was personal – practically a calling – for Springs, it’s also an intimate showcase for her abilities. Produced by Larry Klein – who also produced Springs’ 2016 album “Soul Eyes” – the album captures Springs in the studio with a spare but able band who all have ties to the artists honored here: guitarist Steve Cardenas (Norah Jones), bassist Scott Colley (Carmen McRae), and drummer Clarence Penn (Diana Krall). They played live, underscoring the power of Springs‘ voice and hands, as well as her gift for moving between singers‘ intonations and legacies while staying herself – as her heroines would want it. Heroes too. „Prince liked when I played all this stuff,“ Springs recalls. „He’d go, ‚That’s you right there.“
But long before the Minneapolis giant saw Springs on YouTube and invited her to jam at Paisley Park in 2014 – the year she’d sign to Blue Note with an audition of Bonnie Raitt’s „I Can’t Make You Love Me“ – there was Norah. When Springs was a gifted preteen pianist with no plans to sing, her father, Nashville session singer Scat Springs, slid her a copy of Jones‘ “Come Away With Me”. She put the CD on while doing chores, and, „When ‚The Nearness of You‘ came on I froze,“ Springs says. „I was like, ‚That is what I want to do!'“ So of course that song made it onto “The Women Who Raised Me”. But also, the actual Norah Jones did too. They trade smoke-ringed verses on Ella Fitzgerald’s „Angel Eyes“ as Jones‘ Steinway dances with Springs‘ Wurly.
„I didn’t even know what to think,“ says Springs of recording with her first musical love. Wildly, it only happened because they ran into each other at the Nashville airport. They traded numbers, and later met at Jones‘ Brooklyn apartment to test out Ella songs. „It’s something I relive every so often, like, ‚Lord, I can’t believe she’s sitting right there.‘ It was nerve-racking. I was like, ‚Get it together, Kandace, let’s do this!‘ And we just kinda made up the arrangement as we went.“
Jones isn’t the only guest. It’s Christian McBride’s bass that kicks off the album, in fact, on Springs‘ swinging cover of „Devil May Care“ by Diana Krall. That one was also part of her dad’s informal chops-building curriculum after he brought home a secondhand upright piano when she was 10. Springs was instantly drawn to Krall’s elegant playing and unfussy singing. Scat turned her onto Nina Simone too, eventually. „I didn’t like her voice at first,“ Springs admits. „It seemed strange, but it was so unique and haunting that I kept coming back.“ Before long, she was as inspired by Nina’s spirit as her art. In honor of their shared love for classical, Springs incorporates Moonlight Sonata into her rousing version of „I Put a Spell on You,“ as David Sanborn blows fiery alto sax.
Of course, with an album called “The Women Who Raised Me”, we’d be remiss not to talk about Springs‘ mother, Kelly. While Dad arranged for her to learn from pros like the Wooten brothers, Mom actually drove young Kandace to and from those lessons in the family van while tuned into the local easy listening station. That’s where she first heard Dusty Springfield (Springs‘ rendition of „What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life“ is rich with heartache and drama) and, many times over, the aforementioned Bonnie Raitt hit. She learned the latter in her late teens, while she was working at a local hotel. „I’d park cars during the day,“ says Springs, „then change clothes, go upstairs to the lounge, and perform in the evening. I always got a lot of tips playing Bonnie.“
At that point, Springs‘ career was calling. She’d been offered a production deal by Evan Rogers and Carl Sturken of SRP (who discovered Rihanna), but Scat was wary. As Springs began to consider other paths, it was her mom who encouraged her not to quit music, and even snuck into Scat’s phone to get Rogers‘ contact. That partnership brought Springs to New York and Blue Note, but before she left home, each of these women had shown her something vital: Astrud Gilberto with her „tone that’s so airy and pure“ („Gentle Rain“). Carmen McRae, whose „sense of harmony is deeper than any other jazz singer’s“ („Solitude“). Sade’s uncanny ability to transmit powerful emotion („Pearls“). Lauryn Hill’s vocal textures and „diva queen“ independence („Ex-Factor“).
But even as those mighty influences are felt – and players like trumpeter Avishai Cohen; flutist Elena Pinderhughes, and tenor saxophonist Chris Potter pop in – “The Women Who Raised Me” remains unmistakably Springs‘ vision. That fact becomes especially clear during closing couplet. First, Springs and her band strike up a mellow groove with their take on Roberta Flack’s „Killing Me Softly.“ But as the song nears its end, we’re treated to a gigantic unfurling psychedelic finale, which sets the stage for the next song’s necessary minimalism. The closing number is one that truly cannot be followed: „Strange Fruit.“ For this, it’s just Springs and her trusty Rhodes, crying out all of that pain and beauty, reminding us of the mortal danger inherent in forgetting our past.
Springs learned much from Billie’s example – „I grew up in the South and I can’t even imagine the courage it took for her to sing that song in the ’30s,“ she says – but her main takeaway is as basic as it is bone-deep: „That nothing is more important than singing from the heart.“ End of the day, that’s exactly what Springs did here. The Women Who Raised Me is a raw and real audio love-letter between her and her idols. The rest of us are just lucky she let us listen in.
Kandace Springs, vocals
Every so often a new singer emerges who’s able to assimilate multiple musical touchstones and still come off sounding remarkably fresh and unburdened by the past. Kandace Springs is one of those artists. The 27-year-old, Nashville-based singer, songwriter and pianist counts such stylists as Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Roberta Flack and Norah Jones as her heroes, but as evidenced by her sparkling full-length Blue Note Records debut, Soul Eyes, Springs mimics none of them. Instead Springs allows her comely alto to become a conduit that touches upon soul, jazz and pop while transforming those aforementioned influences into a personalized sound that reveals itself effortlessly. “The artists who have inspired me the most all sang so naturally,” Springs says. “That helped me find my own sound.” Springs’ journey to discovering her uniqueness didn’t happen overnight. In fact, her 2014 self-titled debut EP had a decidedly contemporary R&B/hip-hop bent with production by Pop & Oak (Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Miguel). The EP was incredibly well-received and led to TV performances on Late Show With David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel Live and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, as well as appearances at the Afropunk and Bonnaroo festivals. As amazing an experience as that was, as Springs got ready to record her album she couldn’t shake the feeling that she wasn’t yet singing her true self. Conversations with her longtime producers Carl Sturken and Evan Rogers led to soul searching and rethinking her musical direction. Eventually Springs returned to a more spacious, organic sound that channels her earlier jazz influences as well as her Nashville upbringing. Also during this period, Springs attracted the attention of Prince, who heard her makeover of Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me” on the website Okayplayer. The music icon invited her to perform with him at Paisley Park for the 30th anniversary of Purple R...
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