Sugarcane Jane’s newest release, “Dirt Road’s End,” is a stripped-down romp through country and roots music that pulses with the spirit of a backcountry throwdown.
The Alabama Gulf Coast-duo is the product of the classic colleague-to-lover tale, with singer and guitarist Savana Lee meeting her multi-instrumentalist husband, Anthony, while working in Nashville. They turned their romance into a musical project in the vein of Americana husband-and-wife duos like Shovels & Rope and Gillian Welch and David Rawlings that crackles with energy and musicianship.
The album rightfully kicks off with the foot-stomping “Ballad of Sugarcane Jane,” which chronicles the duo’s journey from their Nashville beginnings to the hard-touring partners in love and music they are today. “Never in my life have I felt so free/ Like a bird on a branch of a live oak tree,” sing the duo, and it is evident in its spirited harmonies this band is the best avenue for each musician to pursue their passions. It also a great introduction to what you’ll hear on “Dirt Road’s End,” driving songs built upon guitar, sienna-tinged harmonies and passionate singing.
Anthony has been working for the last 25 year as a sideman to some of the biggest names in country and Americana, Neil Young, Dwight Yoakam, Vince Gill and Roseanne Cash to name a few, and his pedigree is apparent from the rugged “The Game,” with its rousing harmonica and electric guitar to the fiery “Louisiana.” Working with so many stars known for their songwriting ability, it is no wonder Anthony has pumped the album full of infectious melodies and engaging phrasing.
There is definitely has a down-home tone to the album due to its bare-essentials instrumentation and country-inspired songwriting, which is encapsulated perfectly on “Home Nights.” The sweet ode to home life was actually written in a tool shed by Anthony and producer Buzz Cason, and the song feels as comforting as a backyard singalong with its fiddle hook and guitar-picked rhythm. The flirtatious back-and-forth between Anthony and Savana on “Sugar” feels as natural as their own love language and the song marks one of the most unbridled and passionate performances by the duo, as if this was an impromptu recording done on any old Sunday afternoon.
The duo certainly have found its sound on this album, and though the songs all fall into a simple foot-stomping rhythm, the duo’s enthusiasm for the music keep you lockstep in the groove. It is music that is meant to be played live to crowds who can’t get enough drinking and dancing and the energy of the record radiates clearly through the speakers, even if you aren’t surrounded by happy, drunk strangers. “Dirt Road’s End” is an engaging record and you will be tapping your feet and bobbing your head almost instantly.
- Sugarcane Jane
“Dirt Road’s End”
Label: ArenA Recordings
Release: April 28, 2015
Notable Tracks: “Home Nights,” “Ballad of Sugarcane Jane,” “Sugar”