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Staton brings heartfelt southern soul to the city

Pure class is always to be admired, and that's something the great Candi Staton possesses in spades. Now into her seventh decade, the Alabama-born singer has had her ups and downs career-wise but remains a powerful musical presence.

Along with Ann Peebles, she was one of the finest female purveyors of Southern soul, even drifting into the territory where Country met R 'n' B without ever coming across as cliched.

Like so many singers from that part of the world who emerged in the 60s, Staton's influences were firmly rooted in Gospel music, and she first came to prominence as a backing vocalist for the blind singer-songwriter Clarence Carter, who she subsequently married.

The production and songwriting team of Chips Moman and Dan Penn spotted her potential and she worked at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, under the tutelage of producer Rick Hall.

Those recordings on the Fame label are masterful, particularly the sassy strut of I'd Rather Be An Old Man's Sweetheart (Than a Young Man's Fool), the aching Mr and Mrs Untrue and a great version of Stand By Your Man.

Dance

By the mid-70s Staton found herself on Warners and reaching an entirely new audience as dance music began to dominate the charts. It took a true artist to bring that genuine, heartfelt ache to Young Hearts Run Free and Nights on Broadway, but as the disco boom faded she retreated back to her Gospel roots.

Still, a great voice is a great voice and, against all the odds, she found herself back in the charts in the 90s, providing the memorable vocal on You Got the Love for the Source. What a survivor.

At a gig in Whelan's a couple of years back, it was intriguing to see almost three different audiences pack the house for her Irish debut.

You had the soulboys sticking around for the Fame material, women of a certain age dancing around their handbags during the disco-period tunes and raveheads there for You Got the Love.

Everyone got more than they bargained for and it was a truly glorious night of music, the sheer joy on her face at the crowd's reaction being truly heartwarming to witness.

For her show in the Sugar Club this Wednesday, Staton will not only perform a live set but there will be a screening of the great Muscle Shoals documentary in which she features - a truly fabulous story about two small studios that influenced music to a remarkable extent - and a Q&A with the audience. A true trouper.

>George Byrne


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