Band: Sugarcane Jane
Date: Sat., Jan. 14 at 6:30 p.m.
Venue: Old 27 Grill, 19992 Hwy 181, www.old27grill.com
Many musicians would look over Anthony Crawfordâ€™s resumé and assume this multi-instrumentalist had achieved ultimate satisfaction with his success in the music game. Over the years, this Alabama native has worked in some capacity with a plethora of big names, including Neil Young, Dwight Yoakam, Steve Winwood and Vince Gill.
All the while, Crawford had dreams his work with these icons would eventually allow him to create his own project with an endless list of industry connections to go along with it. However, he continuously found himself playing the part of the "sideman.â€ť A self-proclaimed "Forrest Gump of opportunity,â€ť Crawford found it difficult to develop a personal project that would justify pulling him away from the opportunities he had been presented, but every time he did make it back home, he was pulled in a different direction.
"I realized that as much as I could say that I travelled the world with iconic individuals, at the same time when I came back to Baldwin County, I realized how far I was behind my fellow musicians,â€ť Crawford said. "They had developed their fan base locally or abroad. They, as individuals, were working on their career and their music.â€ť
Crawfordâ€™s desire to develop his own project (even on a regional level) eventually surpassed his want or need to tour with others, especially after meeting fellow Alabama native named Savana Lee in a Nashville studio. After working together, he realized he had not only found his ideal musical project with someone that was not only his perfect match in music but also in life. Crawford and Lee were eventually married, and Sugarcane Jane was born after the couple moved back to Baldwin County.
"I think itâ€™s because she understands the animal thatâ€™s in me,â€ť Crawford said. "She can really go with an idea that I have. If Iâ€™m changing an arrangement, she can immediately go with it. She loves me like nobody has ever loved me.â€ť
This chemistry is just one ingredient in a sonic formula that has been winning them fans on both sides of Mobile Bay and beyond. Armed with numerous instruments, their audiences experience an exceptional presentation of organic sounds highlighted by homespun harmonies and quality musicianship. Sugarcane Jane can regale the crowd with oldies-but-goodies such as Roger Millerâ€™s "Dang Meâ€ť or one of the original tracks found on their self-titled debut or their more recent release "Alright with Me.â€ť While music is a major factor with this duo, Crawford also believes there is a deeper connection within the group that the audience enjoys.
"When you have somebody who loves you like that and is the mother of your baby, if youâ€™re playing music together and have an almost brother/sister harmony sound, then you add that Sonny & Cher kinda bickering back and forth on stage, people just love to see honesty,â€ť Crawford explained. "She keeps me honest and excited. I think I do the same for her. Weâ€™re actually just alike in a lot of ways, except sheâ€™s a lot prettier than me.â€ť
Even though Sugarcane Jane has found its sound and spirit, it is only natural to see progression in a group. One change since their early days is the addition of local singer/songwriter/guitarist Jimmy Lee Hannaford as bassist.
Crawford was also excited to reveal they are just about to send off their fourth studio album for pressing, which will be joined by a live album. Their latest studio effort is called "Listen with Headphones,â€ť and Crawford encourages future listeners to follow the advice of the album title. For the albumâ€™s cover art, the group recruited local photographer Keith Necaise.
Crawford explained this will be "more of a structured CD,â€ť but it will be "filled with ear candy.â€ť At the creative center of "Listen with Headphonesâ€ť is the coupleâ€™s 17-month-old daughter. It was his desire to create an album to which she could "juke and jive.â€ť
"I put in little mandolin parts and really fun beats,â€ť Crawford said. "I didnâ€™t care if we could pull this off live or not. I made it for her. Five of the songs are written with her in mind. However, theyâ€™re not really graphic in saying things about her, but they were inspired by her. Theyâ€™re already proven songs with our audience.â€ť
Even with this album on the verge of release, Sugarcane Janeâ€™s sound continues to evolve. This change was brought about at a recent show at Luluâ€™s Homeport Marina.
Crawford had the desire of incorporating a stomp box into their performance. However, the nature of this instrument made it hard for local soundmen to properly equalize it. On the suggestion of soundman Mike Butler (Luluâ€™s), Crawford put the stomp box aside and brought a kick-drum and snare onstage. While Crawford does duty on the kick drum, his Savana keeps time on the snare. The result was so pleasing to the ear that the band plans on incorporating this percussive style into their regular shows.
"I brought it down there, and we never had the applause that we had that day,â€ť Crawford said. "Thatâ€™s just from people eating shrimp. Itâ€™s a game changer to have that low-end thump.â€ť
After years of touring and working in the big leagues, Crawford has finally found completion in Sugarcane Jane. This group has no huge dreams of big record deals and worldwide touring. They are happy keeping it as local as possible with a 150 mile limit on their touring. They feel that there are enough lovers around here who enjoy the fun nature of their music to keep them performing for quite some time.
"As long as we keep having fun, and we donâ€™t get too locked into any arrangement, weâ€™re gonna have a good time,â€ť Crawford said. "Some people never get tired of having fun or being a part of something having fun. We definitely have fun.â€ť