If Kandace Springs' new album Indigo sounds like something new, that's because it is. Simple while funky. Classic but contemporary. Straightforward in the way it breaks down complex ideas and genres. And, at the end of the day, undeniably human. That said, it isn't quite a rebirth for the Nashville-born artist, who after stints living in New York and Los Angeles has returned back home to Music City. She's long had that lithe and smoky voice and an intensely expressive mastery over the piano. For those paying attention, Kandace's second album finds her unleashing what was there all along, all at once, for the first time.
For Kandace it boils down to a question that connects past to present: "What would Nina Simone do if she had the technology of today? You could never put Nina in a box – she would do a blues followed a classical piece, a jazz standard and then a Beatles cover. This LP took a lot of inspiration from that – it's a mix of everything that I am." Indigo offers a fairly plausible answer to that impossible query: songs that swirl classical composition with quiet-storm cool, jazz poise with hip-hop swing, tropical warmth with soulful depth, and earthen groove with airy psych. With help from the mighty drummer-producer Karriem Riggins – the living bridge spanning Oscar Peterson and Diana Krall to Common and J Dilla – Indigo creates a vibe as familiar as it is previously unheard.
Take the title track, "Indigo," where allusions intended or otherwise – Rachmaninoff, Portishead, Sade – emerge for a moment before melting once again into the liquid soundscape, Kandace's coo eventually dissolving into echoes. It feels like magic. And then there's "Don't Need The Real Thing" with a breezy dancehall beat that'd sound at home in today's Top 40, except far more musical and almost hypnotic in its combination of plaintive bass and busy percussion. Or "Unsophisticated," a sultry ballad that features Roy Hargrove's trumpet playfully intertwined with Kandace's voice and keys. Ask our heroine how Indigo became the name of the entire project and she replies, with an air of mystery, "The album is an exotic flower, its own kind." The more you listen, the more that makes sense. In fact, she could be describing herself.
However, some of Indigo's greatest songs are its most unadorned: "Black Orchid" highlights the acoustic strum of guitarist-songwriter Jesse Harris (who struck Grammy gold with Kandace's early hero Norah Jones by penning her breakout hit "Don't Know Why"); a cover of The Stylistics' "People Make the World Go Round" drifts languidly over Karriem's drum programming; the remake of Gabriel Garzón-Montano's "Six Eight" is molasses slow and crystalline pretty; and the Roberta Flack-popularized torch song "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" (a crowd favorite at Kandace's live shows) radiates light from the white space between notes.