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The Blues Foundation's 1999 "Keeping the Blues Alive Award"
(Delta Groove, 2009)
Review Date: November 2009
by Norman Darwen
In the past the occasional record has been described as life-affirming; for this release that can be taken literally. This is Candye's first album since overcoming pancreatic cancer, and songs such as the title number, 'Hey! Toughen Up' and the closing a cappella 'I'm Gonna Be Just Fine' certainly reflect a determination to fight and win. There's no doubt that she is up to the task right form the very first notes of this album, with Candy hollering in fine, full voice. Of course, the music throughout is firmly in a driving blues, cool California swing, or early rock and roll format, with Candye's cavernous vocals supported with plenty of excellent guitar work from Laura Chavez or guests Kid Ramos (two numbers) and Dave Gonzales (a different two tracks) plus her regular rhythm section and a few other guests – among them label-mate Mitch Kashmar with one vocal appearance (an excellent duet with Candye on the rollicking and salacious 'I Like 'Em Stacked Like That') and one harp contribution. Many of the songs are originals – some particularly fine ones too – but the tough cover of Willie Dixon's 'You Need Love' does deserve a special mention, drawing as much on Led Zeppelin as it does on Muddy Waters, and with Laura's guitar playing especially inventive, wild-sounding but totally controlled. This is a CD certain to please Candye's fans and bring her plenty of new ones too.
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