Review and Video First Look: Sugarcane Jane Are a Musical Melting Pot on 'Southern State of Mind'

Rating: 7.5/10

The Gulf Coast region of Alabama is a bit of a musical melting pot. In addition to their own water-born musical influences, their proximity to the musical meccas of New Orleans, Muscle Shoals, and Northern Florida has given the region a little bit of the musical flavor of all of those places. For Anthony Crawford and Savana Lee, the husband and wife duo who are collectively known as Sugarcane Jane, that musical melting pot gets even more flavors. Both Lee and Crawford have significant Nashville connections and Crawford spent a quarter century as a sideman performing in the bands of Neil Young, Steve Winwood, Vince Gill, and more. On their new album, Southern State of Mind, the duo teams up with another Southern music legend to bring all of those influences into focus.

For Southern State of Mind, Sugarcane Jane teamed up with Americana mainstay Buzz Cason, who co-produced the album, co-wrote most of the songs with Crawford, and is releasing the album Oct. 19 on his own ArenA Recordings label. The result of this meeting of the roots music minds is the most cohesive and wide-ranging album of Sugarcane Jane's career, and one that wears their influences on their sleeves.

The first musical influence that comes to mind while listening to Southern State of Mind is The Carter Family. Savanna Lee's vocals are so laced in the Carter Family tradition, she might want to consider a DNA test to be sure she doesn't have a little bit of Mother Maybelle's blood flowing in her veins. The Carter Family influence is most pronounced on “Cabin on the Hill.” The rollicking country barnburner invokes Rock City, moonshiners, and self-medicating grannies in what is the album's instant “got to make the setlist” track.

Another up tempo highlight is the album's first single, “Campfire.” Sometimes simplicity trumps subtlety and “Campfire” is a simple, exuberant, and fun-loving celebration of the Southern tradition of the group campfire. Read to the end of the article for a Concert Hopper first look at the video for “Campfire.”

But not everything on Southern State of Mind is so uptempo. “Man of the Fewest Words,” which best highlights how much the pair's harmonies fit like a well-worn old sweater, reminds us that, in an America that favors hyperbole over substance, sometimes it's the person who speaks the least who holds the most wisdom. “The One Before Me” is a mournful ballad about a woman who has to constantly compete with the memory of an old lover.

The pair's partners in the supergroup Willie Sugarcapps have also very obviously influenced their style. “Red Flag Warning” is a Southern gothic tune that, while not written by bandmate Grayson Capps, would certainly fit into his musical style nicely. The cadence and delivery of “Destiny,” another highlight, is straight out of the Will Kimbrough playbook. It's not surprising, considering how much time Sugarcane Jane has spent playing with Capps and Kimbrough that their styles have begun to bleed into each other, and it's certainly not a bad thing. It adds another dimension to a band that already has plenty of them.

If you want to see Sugarcane Jane performing songs from Southern State of Mind, you have plenty of opportunity. Rather than a traditional CD release show, the band is touring some of their favorite venues in the next few weeks to debut the new material as widely as possible.

Oct. 24- Watersound Beach Club- Watersound, FL
Oct. 27- Speckled Trout Tournament- Bon Secour, AL
Nov. 2- Big Beach Brewing Company- Gulf Shores, AL
Nov. 3- Playa Restaurant- Orange Beach, AL
Nov. 4- Frog Pond Social- Silverhill, AL
Nov. 9-10- FloraBama- Pensacola, FL
Nov. 9- Sunset Cork Room- Gulf Shores, AL
Nov. 11- Pirates Cove- Elberta, AL
Dec. 5- ArenA Records Showcase- 3rd & Lindsley- Nashville, TN

Now, as promised, the first look at Sugarcane Jane's debut video from Southern State of Mind, “Campfire”: