Singer and pianist Kandace Springs, an up and coming jazz and soul inspired artist, was praised by her late mentor, Prince, who claimed she has a “voice that can melt snow.” That’s just what we need as winter recedes, and Springs doesn’t disappoint on her sophomore release, The Women Who Raised Me. Produced by Grammy Award winning producer Larry Klein, the album is a rich and complex tapestry that travels back and forth across a century of music, using modern production to bend a conglomerate of songs and musical ideas into a new genre while also honoring dozens of the greatest female vocalists of all time.
Springs offers renditions of songs made famous by some of history’s most iconic vocalists: Ella Fitzgerald, Roberta Flack, Astrud Gilberto, Lauryn Hill, Billie Holiday, Diana Krall, Carmen McRae, Bonnie Raitt, Sade, Nina Simone, and Dusty Springfield. The Women Who Raised Me also features a cover of and a collaboration with Kandace’s “ultimate inspiration,” Norah Jones. “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… 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.” In addition, Springs is backed by a top-notch band featuring musicians who all have ties to the artists honored on this project: guitarist Steve Cardenas (Norah Jones), bassist Scott Colley (Carmen McRae), and drummer Clarence Pen (Diana Krall). Special guests on the album include Norah Jones, saxophonists David Sanborn and Chris Potter, bassist Christian McBride, trumpeter Avishai Cohen, and flutist Elena Pinderhughes.
From a starkly intimate rendition of Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” — the song that first caught the ear of Blue Note Records President Don Was when Kandace auditioned for a record deal in 2014 — to a simmering version of Lauryn Hill’s “Ex-Factor,” Springs demonstrates the incredible depth of character and emotion she adds to every phrase. On the lead single, “Pearls,” a song made famous by legendary R&B singer Sade, she offers the perfect rendition of this classic, displaying powerful emotion in a truly effortless way.
Springs and her band strike up a chill and mellow mood with their take on “Killing Me Softly,” a Roberta Flack classic. 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. Bringing the album to a close is Billie Holiday’s haunting “Strange Fruit.” Though covered by many, Springs’ sultry, beautiful yet painful interpretation is beyond compare. Her vocal power and flawless control enhance the song tremendously, easily touching the listener’s soul. There was absolutely no better way to bring the album to a close.
Kandace Springs’ virtuosic voice and subtle playing reflect a studied yet adventurous approach to reinventing these classic works. In the end, The Women Who Raised Me is indeed “a raw and real audio love-letter between Springs and her idols.” This project is perfect for not only the older audience seeking to re-experience beloved musical moments in a modern way, but also for the younger generation who would like an entry point for amazing female vocal greats across the ages.
Reviewed by Jared Walker