Hockeytalk/rock candy Records, 2015
Review by Kent Manthie
Danny Newcomb is a long standing veteran of the local music scene in and around Seattle, having been playing gigs in and around the area for some years now. With his band, The Sugarmakers, Newcomb has been honing the laid back, jangly college rock that is not unlike other stalwarts of the subgenre such as The Shins, the latter-day sound of Pearl Jam (and I don’t mean this as a cut), Candlebox, or Oasis. I liked the music from the get-go, that’s a fact, but it was more of an “I dig ’em” feeling, not the realm of the “oh-so-sublime” as to be a perfect soundtrack for an hour or more of deep, musical transcendence.
As with most bands, the best way to see them live, for me, anyway, is in a medium -to-small sized club, where things are more intimate, the sound is louder and one can even stand in the back part of the club and still get a good view of who’s up on stage.
Masterwish is an album with life; the more one listens to it, the more one gets out of it. Some albums are just that way, though: they get better with repeated exposure; thus was the case with me. One thing is for sure: Danny & The Sugarmakers is not the kind puerile, test-marketed crap that is interchangeable with all the other Top 40 garbage that gets played, at least, 10-12 times from, say, 9 am- 5 pm. If you’ve ever worked in one of those offices at some company, where some jerk in your department decides to have a radio playing all day long, locked on to the lowest common denominator: saccharine, vacuous pop. Worse, in every radio “market”, there’s always some station that plays this stuff. I remember STAR- FM, which is like a McDonald’s of the airwaves: there’s a STAR in every city, all over the country, so if there isn’t a local station dedicated to playing crap (hey, if they can make good money selling ads using this format, they’re going to milk it for all it’s worth and as soon as the money slows down, WHAM, they’ll drop that format like a bowl of kale gone bad (it smells horrible!)).
Anyway, this is not the teenage lobotomized pop “stars” mangling whatever they do. The Sugarmakers have a distinct sound; a luscious groove to make that dreary office environment bearable. I’ve found, as well, that when I’m not subject to awful music playing in the office and instead I have my MP3 player with me or maybe a CD player, etc., my productivity would go up. Masterwish would make me want to be there, at that desk, doing whatever it is I do there.
Sure, Betsy, over there, in marketing might like the biebs, or whatever the flavor-of-the-month is. It’s the same old game, vacuous pop songs which chase each other up and down the meaningless “charts” these days. How does that affect your life? Why should anyone care about how popular some ephemeral pop song fares? What really matters is that people are out there who appreciate original songs, written by those who are singing it, done with talented musicians and with lyrics that are pure poetry, listen to it and like it; not everyone likes pap that’ll be forgotten in a year or two, to be replaced with the “next big thing”.
But getting beyond the workplace, which really is a depressing place anyway, Danny & The Sugarmakers are a great band that really has a tight-knit sound. They’re not (purposefully or not) a garage band nor do they have that sound or aura. The focus seems to be on well-made music that focuses on writing great lyrics as well as a great musical sound.
When they were kicking around for a place that would get their album Masterwish out, Danny got hooked up with Mike McCready’s (Pearl Jam) label, Hockeytalk. And the rest, as they say, is history!
As for The Sugarmakers, the band consists of, well, Danny Newcomb, of course, who sings and plays guitar, Rick Friel on bass and Eric Eagle on drums. Having listened to Masterwish a couple times, I’ve definitely got the message that Danny is a fabulous guitar player. On various songs, from “Nightmare” to “One Wish” “Better When You Fail” or the opener, “Known World” there are some great guitar riffs that really do make Newcomb’s guitar playing shine. He isn’t overtly virtuosic or ostentatious as far as big solos or that kind of thing, but from hearing the bright points that do shine through, one can just tell that at the right moment, like, at a concert, on stage, et cetera, he could, no doubt, easily break into a wicked solo that would roil the show with a great string quality. So, besides the quite good band he has put together, Newcomb can also blow you away with his spirited guitar antics and hearing those will make you want to find out more about the things he can do with that thing and so, when the Sugarmakers come to your town, you’ll be that much more psyched up about going to the show.
Well, there is a way that, if your interest has been piqued, you can jump right to Danny’s Soundcloud page, where Masterwish is all queued up for one to listen to a la streaming: just click on: https://soundcloud.com/danny-and-the-sugarmakers/sets/masterwish-downloadable/s-Tucp3 and you’ll be able to hear the album in its entirety. Hope you enjoy it. -KM.