News/Thoughts

Alabama Duet’s Rockin’ Americana

In the last issue we profiled a pair of artists who made up the duet group billed as Sugarcane Jane. Digging around a bit and watching several You Tube® videos on the internet, revealed a musical pair that has an oldies sounding southern rock vibe that captured my ears. Their music is a combination of simple and direct lyrical expression and soulful harmonies layered on a rock tinged country sound.

Sugarcane Jane is Anthony Crawford and Savana Lee—a husband/wife duet team who call the southern Alabama Gulf Coast home. Together and individually they possess decades of rich musical experience. Let me tell you a bit about this talented pair.

Where I’m From
Anthony Crawford was born in Birmingham, Alabama, and from the age of 18 has pursued a career in music. This career path has led from Opryland to the Grand Ole Opry with Roy Acuff. He has toured with Sonny James, Neil Young, Steve Winwood, Vince Gill, and Dwight Yoakam. Presently he and Savana record and tour as the duo, Surgarcane Jane. In addition, he has his own recording studio in Loxley, Alabama, Admiral Bean Studio, where he produces recordings for other artists as well as his own projects.

Savana was raised along Alabama’s Gulf Coast but soon found herself heading to Nashville, TN for the life of a songwriter and recording artist. While living in Nashville, she spent her time writing and performing at the Bluebird Cafe, Broken Spoke, and Douglas Corner.  Savana’s dreams of being a singer/songwriter eventually were replaced by a five-year position managing the respected Deepfield Studio, recording the works of other artists. Savana met Anthony while he was recording his own tracks at Deepfield Studio. He later recruited her to sing a few demos for him, which led to the two forming a lasting friendship. Finding the office work to be wearing her down, Savana moved back home. She reported, “I took it easy for a while, and started playing my music and getting back into that. Anthony moved down not long after. About January of 2009, we started playing together although he was still touring with Neil Young part of the year. We would play locally when he got home from the road. We were just having fun playing around the beach scene.” The two eventually married and started a family and settled into a lifestyle that included a 10-year musical partnership of performing and recording.

Playin’ With Dwight
In 2019, they got a call to join a Dwight Yoakam tour as an opening act. This required that they form a band so they rounded up some of Anthony’s childhood friends who were great musicians and called them The Bucket Fillers. Why the odd name? Here is Anthony’s explanation, “We wanted to just be out there putting good vibes in people’s buckets. There is a book we read to our kids. The title of the book included the words bucket filler and told the story that folks could fill someone’s bucket with either good stuff or bad stuff. We wanted to fill their buckets with good stuff.” Anthony continued, “At different times Savana and I have had different configurations of a band but the nucleus of who we are is just Savana and me. It is based around our harmony and that is our approach to writing songs.”

When pointed out to Anthony that the recording that they just released, Ruffled Feathers; Songs in the Key of Me, was reported to have been completed in a week, He expanded upon that theme, “Yes that is right. This current record is our 10th studio recording plus I have four or five solo records. There is a lot of music flowing through our veins all the time. Most of the projects we put together come together quickly but this one was very special. It was fueled by the emotions of the current environment. It is not a total political record or anything but I felt a spirit moving inside of me that I call my holy spirit because at times I have had a difficult time writing lyrics. I am usually a music person. I normally write the music first but this time I wrote everything all at the same time. The music and the words fit together without even trying. I did very little rewriting or anything. The words just came to me as if my spirit was writing them and keeping me out of the way. We had nine songs in six days, and I added a previously written instrumental. Savana did the graphics for the cover in one day and in my opinion it is one of the best designs that we have in all of our CDs.”

They recorded, mixed, and mastered the recording in Crawford’s Admiral Bean Studio. He described the setup there, “We have a nice analog console, a sound workshop, and a 34-channel mixing console. Plus, we have a lot of vintage microphones and guitars. This setup gives us a lot of analog gear that we can use to make the sound we want to achieve.”

Recording Old School
There is something special that artists can derive from old analog gear. Anyone old enough to remember the 70s and 80s music and how that music felt to the listener knows that there is a magic to that. It is hard to capture that feel with the modern digital recording tools. Anthony agreed and expanded upon the idea by saying, “It becomes obvious when one listens to the drum sound of the 60s and 70s recordings. Often folks just use sample drums on present day music. I learned a lot from my relationship with Neil Young. I learned a lot about recording just by being in the room with those great engineers and musicians and the way they thought about music. They did not over edit to make the sound perfect. They let the recording breathe and be what it was. Doing that is a big part of getting the sound—just do not over think it. Do not be a perfectionist with it. People edit out the magic when they edit out all the imperfections. Something that sounds a little funky when you put it down might sound fantastic when you put another part with it. You can not over edit. If you do, you remove the magic.”

The backbone of this latest recording reflects the duo’s conservative beliefs. Anthony explained, “We have been ambiguous people, and folks knew little about us other than they thought we could sing well. In these peculiar times we noticed that folks must be one side or the other so on this record we just came out a bit on the side of how we felt about things. But we want folks to understand our main message is about tolerance of everyone and their opinions and trying to be thoughtful about other people. This is where we stand—just be tolerant of others and be kind hearted about how you reply to other people.”

We suggest you check out their web page
www.sugarcanejane.com. To get a quick ear taste of their music, search out two of my Sugarcane Jane picks on the YouTube.com web site: “Cabin on the Hill” and “Southern State of” Mind”. Tell me you do not hear the vintage echo of those southern rockers from long ago.

Written by Ed Tutwiler

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