Reviewer: Dave Cunningham
The title of Kandace Springs’s new album may be Soul Eyes but the stage at The Lowry is definitely set for jazz. It is a merciless stripped down format – Springs on very impressive grand piano is accompanied only by Jesse Bielenberg on double bass and Dillon Treacy on drums. The lack of guitar and horns means that Springs has to carry the melodies alone – a challenge to which she gleefully rises.
With relatively few recordings it is to be expected that the set-list with be a mixture of original material and covers. From the opening Springs’s versatility and subtle approach to developing the concert become apparent. There are slight variations in her warm vocals in each of the songs. For the title track of the album Springs adopts a husky sensual tone while Forbidden Fruit has more of a teasing vampish element.
Jesse Harris who wrote Don’t Know Why – the crossover hit for Norah Jones- penned many of the original songs. One wonders if this is a hint of the direction in which Springs hopes to take her career. If so it might be a shame if some of the rough edges that add grit to tonight’s show are smoothed out in pursuit of popularity.
Kandace Springs’s approach to the covers is respectful but not deferential. Rather than draw out the yearning for a lost love her confident sensual interpretation of Someone To Watch Over Me makes it hard to believe the reference in the song to her being a lamb that has lost her way is anything other than ironic. It is now almost traditional for an artist to try and catch the audience off-guard by covering a chart hit so Rag ’n’ Bone Man’s Only Human is excellent but hardly shocking. Actually, the one cover that does surprise is the middle of the road ballad Place to Hide from Julie Tzuke.
Springs’s talent is not restricted to her vocals – her piano playing shines on the purely instrumental numbers and, true to her approach of stamping her personality on covers, she delivers a spiky version of Chicago Blues.
The sound of the band is crisp, clear and modern but not especially atmospheric. One could not imagine them in the romantic setting of a smoky nightclub.
It now seems that vocalists are not satisfied unless they turn every song into an anthem – running up and down the scales and hitting notes only dogs can hear. Kandace Springs’s restrained approach is a blessed relief. Even when she does allow herself to cut loose on the closing number and encore there is still the self- discipline that refuses to distract from the quality of the songs.
As is often the case with jazz at times one finds oneself appreciating the craftsmanship rather than enjoying the show but Springs’s enthusiasm does help to draw the audience into material which, covers aside, occasionally seems a bit bland.
Reviewed on 28 April 2017 | Image: Contributed