Kandia Crazy Horse - Stampede
Record Label: Bluebilly Records
Release Date: Jan. 20, 2014
This one’s for the underdog.
Despite her High Plains stage name, Florida singer-songwriter Kandia Crazy Horse is actually a name well worth remembering. The former journalist-turned musician has crafted a compelling, cohesive and supremely polished ten song debut effort. Inspired by the likes of The Eagles, Patty Griffin and Alabama Shakes, Stampede is a precocious debut from an artist who proves that its never too late to chase a dream.
The album opens with its lead single “California,” an enveloping, intoxicating and arresting array of first-rate songwriting, effortless vocals and some of the best five minutes of Americana this writer has heard from someone not named Isbell or Fulks. Equal parts Southern gospel, blues and Americana, “California” is a whale of a track and the very validation that a relative unknown like Crazy Horse needs to propel her career beyond its relative anonymity.
The jaunty “Congo Square” borrows its charms from the likes of Bonnie Raitt, while “Gunfight at the Golden Corral” channels the dusty plains of Oklahoma. Buttressed by a lilting pedal steel, the song is a saloon ballad that evokes a hazy Tulsa summer night. While it can be argued that Crazy Horse’s vocals leave a bit to be desired, she does deserve kudos for never once allowing the music to consume her. Never once does she try and to too much either. The best example of that on the disc’s first half is the sweetly affecting “Americana,” a fingerpicked hymnal that lingers long after the 2:30 running time. Arguably one of the strongest efforts on Stampede is “So Many Enemies,” a slow-burner that slithers and creeps with the coiled energy of Lucinda Williams.
The second half of Stampede opens with the languorous and cottony “Cabin in the Pines,” an airy and enveloping slice of dream-pop-cum-Americana. Crazy Horse continues to wade in balladry on the violin-laden “Soul Yodel #3,” a Deep South-inspired paean to the Gulf Coast, that’s arguably one of the best efforts on the disc. After a bevy of downtempo numbers, the disc gets a much-needed boost on the crackling “Cowgirls,” a howling firecracker with the kind of snap and fizzle that proves Crazy Horse can hold her own with her genre contemporaries.
Tackling a legendary song is never easy but the Florida-bred is more than up for the challenge and offers up a slowed-down, bare-bones attempt at The Eagles’ “New Kid in Town.” While many will be quick to dismiss it, there’s a power and polish in each passing second here and Crazy Horse man than proves her worth. Stampede comes to a close with “Quartz Hill,” a near seven-minute ballad that initially evokes the windswept plains of Wyoming and eventually segues to the halcyon days of Laurel Canyon. Fueled by a fiery lead guitar, a gospel chorus and a penchant for meandering, the song lingers long after its done and is arguably one of the finer closing cuts released this year.
The grim reality of Stampede is that it most definitely faces an uphill battle. Being that she’s on an unknown label, with an unknown produce, the deck is certainly stacked against her. That being written, there’s enough on this disc that should launch Crazy Horse beyond her relative obscurity and onto wider stages. Here’s hoping that’s exactly what happens.