Candi Staton must be living right, because the “First Lady of Southern Soul” still looks lovely and sings like a dream on her 27th album Life Happens. Opening with “I Ain’t Easy To Love”- with harmony vocals from Jason Isbell and the Civil Wars John Paul White- Staton sounds as fresh and sassy as she did decades ago. Doesn’t hurt that the album finds her returning to Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals with the fabled Rick Hall producing (and David Hood, Patterson’s dad, on bass from the “Swampers”). The three cuts she did there- “I Ain’t Easy to Love”, “Commitment” and the poignant “Never Even Had The Chance” are prime old-school rhythm and blues. Ain’t no AutoTune or electronic drums found here, just tons of funk.
“Beware, She’s After Your Man” finds Staton testifying to her girlfriends on “love in the digital age”, and “Treat Me Like A Secret” is a horn-filled strut that Candi has spent a lifetime performing effortlessly. Staton was a featured star on the Muscle Shoals documentary, and if you haven’t seen it, why not? It’s a great look at one of America’s musical hotbeds, and Candi Staton helped make it so. And listening to Life Happens, she still has it. Testify, First Lady!