8 Songs | MR012 | Release Date 2005
There are certain genres of music that inherently make new endeavors into them problematic. As one of these genres, “Southern Rock” is difficult for two reasons: it requires a relatively high level of execution and is ripe with cliché. With “Translucent,” Sugar And The Raw have produced a body of work that not only demonstrates that the band has the necessary chops to pull off a demanding style of rock n’ roll, but that they can also avoid the obvious and tired. A difficult combination. Pretty impressive.
This record is a kind of departure for Sugar. Previously labeled by many as not much more than a good “party” band, the new material has a drive and direction not before found in their catalogue. Invariably, this is the result of another year’s worth of effort refining what the band does and what they are about. But there’s more…
Singer Mason Mauldin has begun to play rhythm guitar, and while this may not seem like much of a change in direction, the effect is considerable. It makes the new stuff rock. In fact, there are flashes when it rocks hard (see opening track, “Henry Gates”). Moments of atmospheric moodiness also appear, such as on the final track, “Make Believe”, featuring Mike Motley’s soulful organ and Conrad Burnham’s Robby Kreiger-esque slide guitar solo. Other highlights include the sing-song give and take of “Again and Again” and the sweeping chorus of “Living the Life”.
Without a doubt, however, the high point of the record is the gleeful charm and energetic rush of “Hope You Don’t Mind”. Set firmly in the middle of the record, the song is pure pop bliss. Put into the right and lucky hands, this sparkling gem could produce a lot of revenue. Unfortunately, it is immediately followed by “Tap Out”, the lone detractor on the record. This may be unfair since it has to follow “Hope You Don’t Mind”, but decidedly, it does.
Veterans of SATR’s live act know there’s a good time to be had. For sure. But frequently the show is muddled and chaotic. With two guitars, bass, drums, keys, horns, percussion, and a slew of vocal harmonies, this problem is nearly impossible to avoid. Thankfully, “Translucent” overcomes this difficulty with a combination of fine production and exquisite mix. The result is a well and thoroughly textured landscape full of rock n’ roll history. And it’s fun.
- Dan Johnson via The Localist