AXS - Review
Review: On 'Ladders and Edges,' Sugarcane Jane finds a reason to slow down
By: Chris Griffy AXS Contributor Jul 19, 2017
A lot is written about an artist's home and how the area they hail from influences their musical lives. But just as important as where they are from is where they've been, the road traveled, the people they meet and the styles picked up along the way. Most importantly to any artist who has been at it a while is how all of those things color how they see the place, and the people, they come back home to. Alabama Gulf Coast based husband and wife duo Sugarcane Jane explore that and more on their new album, Ladders and Edges.
Certainly Savana Lee and Anthony Crawford have plenty of miles on life's odometer to pull from. While both originally from the Gulf Coast, they met in Nashville after Anthony had spent a long career as a sideman to the likes of Neil Young, Vince Gill, and Steve Winwood and Savana had settled into life as a successful songwriter and studio head. Since forming Sugarcane Jane, they have developed a reputation as some of the most collaborative musicians in the business, sitting in with numerous artists and forming the supergroup Willie Sugarcapps with fellow Gulf Coasters Will Kimbrough, Grayson Capps, and Corky Hughes.
For Ladders and Edges, Sugarcane Jane have found a kindred spirit as producer. Colin Linden is the Canadian multi-instrumentalist and songwriter who is currently best known as the musical director for the hit soap opera Nashville. Linden has logged his own share of miles and his production philosophy blends perfectly with the band's.
While Ladders and Edges isn't a concept album, there is a general theme across its eleven songs, best laid out in the song “Slow It Down.” The acoustic rambler is a call to unplug from the 24 information feed that is 21st Century life and enjoy the things and people around you. In the same vein is “Train of Information”, with its refrain “take your seat, enjoy the ride, you're never going back” backed up by some slick electric guitar licks by Crawford.
In the album's press material, Sugarcane Jane emphasized the importance of family in shaping their current musical philosophy, saying “family is everything to us and we are trying to give our kids some guidance and advice in song, without having to necessarily tell them everything repeatedly.” Nowhere is this more clear than in the album's standout track “Never Do We Know.” A bare declaration of the need to enjoy “one last kiss” or “the last time we look into each other's eyes” because life isn't a given is hardly a new concept in song, but the gentle harmonies and endearing earnestness of the pair's harmonies elevate a time-worn trope to something worth a second listen.
If you're familiar with Sugarcane Jane, Ladders and Edges is all of the instrumental prowess, tight harmonies, and diverse gospel, country, rock, and swamp influences you'd expect, with a serious rock and roll punch up from Colin Linden. If you're new to Sugarcane Jane, Ladders and Edges is a great jumping on point.
Lagniappe Mobile - Review
by Steve Centanni
Over the years, playing together as Sugarcane Jane and as two-fourths of Willie Sugarcapps, Anthony and Savana Lee Crawford have become the “first couple” of the Mobile Bay music scene. Sugarcane Jane’s infectious music draws an enthusiastic crowd to every performance. Fans now have the chance to sample new material from their favorite band.
On June 2, the duo released their latest album, “Ladders & Edges.” Sugarcane Jane kept the recording process close to home by utilizing Anthony Crawford’s Admiral Bean Studio. This also marks the band’s first release on vinyl.
“Ladders & Edges” is marked by layer after layer of rich and lovely instrumentation with acoustic guitar in the forefront. The Crawfords also expertly weave their beautiful harmonies throughout each song. “Ladders & Edges” could not have been released at a more ideal time of year, providing the perfect complement to warm, starry evenings on the Gulf Coast.
The Southland Music Line
After a long, extensive process following their successful 2015 album “Dirt Road’s End”, Sugarcane Jane delves into a more contemporary sound than some of their previous work yet stays true to every element of music that is very much their trademark Sugarcane Jane identity. They (Anthony and Savana Lee Crawford) enrich our lives with something very personal and intimate with the latest release. “Ladders and Edges” which features guest appearance by Colin Linden continues a mission of excellence that we have come to value and appreciate from the popular duo. In 2016, Anthony Crawford’s solo release “National Treasure” ranked among The Southland Music Line’s top albums. His latest with wife Savana is sure to merit that same recognition.
Sugarcane Jane has been featured in numerous articles and photo collections at The Southland Music Line. They were voted Music Artist of the Year in 2015 by the readers of The Southland Music Line and their album “Dirt Road’s End” was voted 2015’s Album of the Year by the readers too.
Some of the songs from the new album that stand out early for me are “Words”, “The Whistle Song” (you’ll catch yourself whistling along), the beautiful and moving “Never Do We Know”, “The Edge”, “New Love” and the amazing “13th Believer”.
We highly recommend “Ladders and Edges”.
The Washington Times Review
Vintage Guitar Magazine Review
Dirt Road's End
There are enough examples of married-couple acts imploding or having one spouse drag the other down that there probably ought to be a warning sign, if not a law. But the debut duo album by Anthony and Savana Lee Crawford as Sugarcane Jane is enough to give romantics hope.
Multi-instrumentalist/songwriter Anthony Crawford has worked with Neil Young, Steve Winwood, Dwight Yoakam, Steve Forbert, Sonny James, Vince Gill, Rosanne Cash, Eddie Rabbitt, and Rodney Crowell - often as background vocalist, which is ironic considering his prowess on electric and acoustic guitars, mandolin, fiddle, banjo, piano, bass, drums, lap steel, and harmonica, all amply demonstrated here.
The opening "Ballad of Sugarcane Jane" is reminiscent in mood and texture of Steve Earle's "Copperhead Road." The next track, "The Game", falls somewhere between the Georgia Satellites and Timbuk 3. And there might be a touch of Buddy and Julie Miller here and there. But by "Home Nights", the couple's vocal harmonies and entering/disappearing instruments merge into a singular identity.
With co-producer Buzz Cason penning one and co-writing six of the 10 tunes and WIll Kimbrough guesting on banjo, this is one of the liveliest, most engaging Americana CDs you're likely to hear this or any year. - DF
Guitar World Interview | 'Dirt Road’s End': Sugarcane Jane's Anthony Crawford Talks New Album, Touring with Neil Young and More
Anthony Crawford and his wife, Savana Lee, are both virtuosos. Crawford is a songwriter who plays guitar and mandolin while Lee alternates between rhythm guitar, tambourine and snare drum.
Sugarcane Jane’s new album, Dirt Road’s End,provides a rich, homegrown brand of Americana that draws deep from a well of influences, including country, jazz, rock and gospel. The album was conceived and co-produced by legendary Americana/roots singer-songwriter Buzz Cason.
Dirt Road’s End, which was recorded on a classic Otari MTR-90 tape recorder, traverses a spectrum of moods and stories, including the autobiographical “Ballad of Sugarcane Jane” which features Anthony’s driving guitar work, and “Heartbreak Road," which steams with rock energy and bluegrass spirit.
I recently spoke with Crawford about Dirt Road’s End, recording “old school” and what it was like touring as a member of Steve Winwood and Neil Young’s bands.
GUITAR WORLD: To someone who might not be familiar with Sugarcane Jane, how would you describe your sound?
"Saving the planet one good vibe at a time" is our slogan. Savana and I are energy pushers and write songs that make people feel good. Although we have songs in our repertoire that have deeper meaning, the lyrical content for Dirt Road’s End is more light hearted. Savana and I are in love with each other, and that shows in our music. Ultimately, it’s energetic Americana that’s positive and light hearted.
What was the songwriting process like for Dirt Road’s End?
At one time when I was working in Nashville I was forced to write, but I quickly learned that the best songs are never written. Instead, they’re born. For this record, songs like “Ballad of Sugarcane Jane,” “San Andreas” and “Pedigree” were my lyrics and melody.
For the other seven, I wrote a melody or a piece of music and my co-writer/producer, Buzz Cason, wrote the lyrics. Buzz is such a masterful lyricist who's had a lot of success over the years. He’s always inspired. Then Savana came in and with her vocal and energy. She organized everything and brought it to life.
When you record with Pro Tools or in another digital format, manipulating the music is easily done. But when you record on analog, not only do you gather a different approach sonically but it also keeps you from the temptation of manipulating what it is you’re doing. Buzz has a studio in Nashville with a 2-inch tape machine and an old analog board and invited us in to record. We wanted to record that way because we wanted to capture exactly what we sound like live and have it be authentic.
What was it like for you working and touring as a guitarist with guys like Neil Young and Steve Winwood?
It was a fabulous time. I was in Steve’s band back when he did the Roll with It tour. I remember when I was on the road with him I was out with some serious musicians, like drummer Russ Kunkel, guys who’ve played on some really big records. We recently opened a show for Steve Winwood in Birmingham at the Alys Stephens Center, which is a beautiful venue.
But my main claim to fame as a sideman was playing with Neil Young. He’s someone who’s on maximum power at all times. For me to have been around him was an honor because not too many people get his approval. You can’t get a better gig than to play with Neil Young. He’s just amazing. He’s one of the most incredible songwriters of our time.
What excites you the most about the future and the next phase of your career?
We’re excited about having a broader audience and continuing to keep our music attached to who we are. Our secret weapon is to be ourselves, and by today’s standards it’s something that’s almost unheard of. We’re real people and want to continue to be ourselves and hopefully inspire other artists to embrace that philosophy and do the same.