The successful self-titled reissue of Fame-era material released in early 2004 allowed Candi Staton to make this, her first secular album in several years. Where 1999's Outside In was a way to take advantage of her unplanned return to the clubs -- a couple singles released during the '90s used a vocal she recorded for a documentary about a man's struggle with life-threatening obesity -- His Hands is 100 percent Southern soul. Staton involves several family members and longtime associates, including son Marcus Williams (a seasoned drummer who has played with her for years), daughter Cassandra Hightower, sister Maggie Staton Peebles, and Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section organist Barry Beckett. It might be surprising to see that Lambchop's Mark Nevers produced the session, and that Lambchop ally Lloyd Barry arranged the horns, but both men have done extensive work with Staton's peers in the gospel world. Though seven of the 11 songs are provided by others (Merle Haggard, Red Simpson, Bert Berns, Will Oldham), Staton uses almost all of the album to work through the pain caused by her brutal past relationships, some of which came and went as she was churning out gospel material. Something like this has evidently been a long time coming. Going by her performances, she's possibly more familiar with the emotions running through the likes of "When Hearts Grow Cold" and "You Never Really Wanted Me" than the songwriters, and her voice remains a rich and powerful instrument -- it's amazing how little her voice has changed through nearly four decades. Even when the arrangements come too close to resembling slight facsimiles of classic Southern soul (which isn't too frequently), Staton's heartache is enough to cut through your soul. This is a very good album, and knowing that Staton seems to have cleared a glorious path through her dependencies and abusive relationships makes it all the more sweet.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman