Willie Sugarcapps is playing shows in September and October. You can catch them this weekend in Jackson, MS (Fri, 9/20), in Nashville, TN at the Americanarama Festival (Sat, 9/21) and in Silverhill, AL (Sun, 9/22). Check out their full itinerary HERE.
”Now, pick up a guitar and sing us a song about the people you’ve seen and the places you’ve gone. Tell us all the news from across the land. Show us all the calluses you’ve got on your hands.”
Really good tunes offered up with living room/back porch bonhomie is what the inviting debut from Willie Sugarcapps is all about. Comprised of a super talented but less-well-known-than-they-should-be quintet of Will Kimbrough (vocals, acoustic guitar, resonator guitar, banjo, mandolin & more), Sugarcane Jane’s Anthony Crawford (vocals, acoustic guitar, kala u bass, kick drum) & Savana Lee (vocals, acoustic guitar, tambourine), Impound favorite Grayson Capps (vocals, acoustic guitar, harmonica, shaker) and Lost Cause Minstrels’ Corky Hughes (electric guitar, lap steel), this homey and professional, experienced and delightfully fresh, and simply some of the best roots tunesmithing happening today, top tier folk music that retains a dusty, lived-in feel that Woody Guthrie would likely have dug a great deal.
Woody is name checked on the opener for the group’s self-titled album (released August 20 by The Royal Potato Family) but he’s not the only quality forebear in the air. Leadbelly, John Prine and Buddy & Julie Miller are kindred spirits, not to mention the stompin’ country side of Ronnie Van Zant era Skynyrd – Willie’s “Mr. Lee” and titular theme song are relatives to “The Ballad of Curtis Loew,” i.e. scuffed up, Southern touched primers for sipping and swaying. Every singer has character and savors the words in ways that endear them to the listener with a sure swiftness, all the crackled, feeling marbled humanity missing from this over-produced musical age. A palpable mood of smiling camaraderie infuses the album, which has an uplifting lilt even when moving through bittersweet territory like the Kimbrough-penned “Gypsy Train,” which muses, “Most days I’m flying, living my dream/ Some days I’m falling apart at the seams.”
This strikes one as a mutual admiration society, where the members have brought some of their shiniest, sturdiest wares to show off and allow the others to buff to even greater glow. Co-produced by the band and longtime Capps cohort Trina Shoemaker, this set doesn’t fuss with things overmuch, keeping the loose jam session vibe intact while using the rise and fall of faders to highlight a keening line reading, a stirring harmony, an emotional string cry, and other small, lovely touches. You can play this album loud or soft and it works well in either setting, ideal for ruminatin’ with a drink or belting out with hoot-ish vigor.
Close your eyes, ease into it, and this debut will carry you off like a gentle stream that takes you somewhere that feels like home even though you know you’re a guest. Such is the welcoming, unforced atmosphere, and it’s to be hoped this Folk Voltron assembles with some regularity based on the stealth knockout they’ve delivered first time in the ring.