Paradise Right Here
(Baldwin County Public Records)
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Three years and one Independent Music Association win for Americana Album of the Year later, this singer-songwriter supergroup of sorts reconvenes for release number two. Any quintet with four strong multi-instrumentalist/vocalists and three veteran songcrafters in Will Kimbrough, Grayson Capps and Anthony Crawford has a surplus of talent most bands would envy. Singer Savana Lee, who along with Crawford comprises the Sugarcane Jane duo, even designed the artwork.
Boasting a predominantly acoustic, generally ballad approach with only the most basic of percussion, the music is appropriately rootsy yet surprisingly full. The 11 tracks span folk, country with hints of blues, subtle swampy rock, and in “Magnolia Springs,” even a jaunty jazzy swing. While Sugarcapps isn’t the Eagles or Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young in the singing department, the lead vocals with backing harmonies on selections such as the opening “Dreamer’s Sky” and the lilting “Love Be Good to Me” display a solid sense of vocal arrangements that could be used to better advantage. When Capps takes the lead on his “May We Love” his southern drawl and natural rasp combined with Lee’s more fluid style makes the song bloom with all the emotion implied in its title.
The group goes call and response gospel on the righteous, positive, if somewhat simplistic “Find the Good,” a tune primed for audience sing-alongs. There isn’t a lot of rocking here but when Willie Sugarcapps charges through “Intentions of My Heart” with Corky Hughes’ lap steel prominent in the mix, the spontaneous back porch energy feels organic and honest. Kimbrough’s “The Highway Breaks My Heart” also kicks up a head of chugging steam as he finds a relatively fresh approach to the often clichéd tales of a road musician’s travels by comparing the endless road to a woman.
Perhaps due to recording in Muscle Shoals’ legendary Fame studios, this sophomore set tamps down the loosey-goosey back porch jamboree vibe that enlivened the band’s debut, in favor of a slightly more studied style that still feels as comfy as a worn pair of jeans. And with two epic length tunes that push over the seven minute mark, including Kimbrough’s wonderfully wistful closing Neil Young-styled “Paradise Right Here,” there remains a fresh, sympathetic, communal groove that’s as responsible for the band’s success as its stellar singing and songwriting.