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Published: 2014/02/07
by Brian Robbins

Kandia Crazy Horse
Stampede

Bluebilly Records

On the opening cut of her debut album Stampede songstress Kandia Crazy Horse pulls off an exceptionally neat feat. Her vocal on “California” sways effortlessly from powerful – like, Bettye Lavette draw-off-and-work-that-thing powerful – to across-the-pillows soft and soulful. Add in Ben Peeler’s lovely lap steel and Tim Mitchell’s quiet guitjo chirp woven into a bed of gentle guitar/keys/drums/bass – all backed by the gospel-flavored voices of the Quartz Hill Choir – and you have 4 minutes and 55 seconds’ worth of confident grace with a whole lotta soul, folks.

And just as quick as all that fades, Ms. Crazy Horse turns around and lays down the supreme street-savvy funk of “Congo Square” – combining whoop-whooping ultra-cool bass lines and … fiddle? Sure enough: that’s Megan Mullins working the bow sweet and funky while KCH leads the way through a shoulder-swaggering, hip-swaying workout.

Kandia Crazy Horse would get plenty of points just for being able to interpret two such totally different tunes so well if they belonged to someone else; the fact that she wrote them both – along with six others out of the ten songs on Stampede – is a mark of just how diverse a talent this woman is.

There’s twang supreme in “Gunfight At The Golden Corral” and the snakeskin-booted “Cowgirls; “Cabin In The Pines” is both beautiful and haunting – an invitation as much as it is a warning; and “Soul Yodel #3” could have no better-fitting title (oh, what a voice!). The Neal Casal-penned “So Many Enemies” never loses its composure as it makes its slow-burning way towards an inevitable conclusion, while you could’ve told me “Americana” was a long-lost Joan Armatrading tune and I would’ve believed you.

I’ll be honest here: after having the AM radio of my youth pound The Eagles’ greatest hits into my brain back in the 70s, I could’ve gone the rest of this natural life and the next one without hearing “New Kid In Town” – but bless your soul, Kandia Crazy Horse: you not only made that old Souther/Henley/Frey chestnut palatable again, you actually made it yours (her arrangement is basically her voice and a piano against a backdrop of synth shimmer). And just as she knew how to make an entrance, KCH knows how to leave ‘em smiling as well. “Quartz Hill” is a showcase for all hands: a multi-chaptered ballad that offers up some clever rhythm change-ups before settling into a long closing passage, featuring magnificent vocals by Crazy Horse and the choir holding hands with cascades of guitar.

Maybe her years as a music journalist herself have helped Kandia Crazy Horse avoid the pitfalls and clichés that so many/too many debut albums tumble into; most likely, she’s just wicked talented and it wouldn’t have mattered what she’d done prior to recording Stampede.

Whatever: this is a hell of a first step on the part of Kandia Crazy Horse. May there be many more to come.

*****

Brian Robbins still listens to his old AM radio over at www.brian-robbins.com.

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