Danny Newcomb and the Sugarmakers
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Danny Newcomb and the Sugarmakers

Seattle, Washington, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2015 | INDIE

Seattle, Washington, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2015
Band Rock Americana


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We listen to a lot of new music at NorthWest Music Scene. And while there is some really good, even great music being made in the northwest these days, sometimes we are even surprised at how good something is. Of course there always has been good and great music coming from here, you just have to know where to look. Recently we received one of those really great ones from Danny Newcomb & The Sugarmakers. The album is called ‘Masterwish’ and it drives home a message that I’ve always felt doesn’t get talked about enough. And that is, “what exactly is the Northwest Sound or Seattle Sound”?

We’ve long said that it is impossible to label and unfair to group together bands that sound nothing alike (like Alice In Chains and Pearl Jam) and place them in a box. ‘Masterwish’ smashes any preconceived notion people might have about what Seattle is supposed to sound like. ‘Masterwish’ is also totally devoid of the sometimes worn out rock and roll cliches. Instead, it paves the way for a bright new sound that encompasses what the northwest is about.

While the musicianship is stellar to say the least, the true strength of this release lies within the songwriting. The lyrics are married to the melody in spectacular fashion; Danny Newcomb has created a sound and a groove all his own on this album. The first song “Known World” starts out with a simple bright guitar riff, quickly giving way to Newcomb’s ever-capable voice and some absolutely brilliant bass work from Rick Friel. The drums also shine on this track as Eric Eagle is allowed to feel the song. It’s a fantastic tune that sets the tone for the rest of the album.

The second song is called “Nightmare” and it follows along the same lines as the first song, although it’s a little more up-tempo with Friel’s thick bass very audible. In fact, the potent rhythm section of Friel and Eagle powers this groovy tune. Newcomb’s killer guitar work is on display on this song as well, with very tasty lead work. The third track, “Believe It”, really shows off the musical diversity of Danny as he is brilliant on both vocals and guitar. Add a healthy amount of keyboards and some fantastic backing vocals and you have the recipe for an incredible song. The guitar is clean and bright perfectly in sync with the bass and keys as they start building into something magnificent. By the time the last 30 seconds or so of this song roll around, Newcomb is gracefully blistering the neck of the guitar, Friel and Eagle are both in the zone, blending with the keys and backing vocals to turn this one into a magical experience. Although it’s hard to pick a favorite on this album, “Believe It” certainly has to be a contender.

“One Wish” is the fourth song and finds Newcomb pleading with his love interest to make the right decision and go with him instead of the other guy. While thinking about what this reminds me of, it took some time, but let’s pretend for a second that all the Beatles would have been able to stay together and keep recording, this is what I imagine they’d have sounded like at some point and this wasn’t the first time I got that feeling while listening to this album. Once again the band displays just how tight they are and they dish out more of the delicious groove that is found throughout.

Danny Newcomb & The Sugarmakers is a band that is made up of people that have known each other for a long time. Newcomb and Friel’s musical connection can be traced back to the days of Warrior and Shadow, which also included Mike McCready of Pearl Jam and Mad Season fame. This trio was also 3/5 of The Rockfords, which also included Carrie Akre and Chris Friel (Newcomb’s bandmates from Goodness).

Mike McCready’s guitar work can be found on Track number 6 “Sundays” as he makes a cameo and drops a luscious guitar solo. McCready has a long history with the members of this band and it shows as he just blends in so naturally, even though he’s in one of the most popular rock bands on the planet. This song is another bright spot on this incredible album, and if you aren’t careful with it, it’ll be stuck in your head all day.

The basics for ‘Masterwish’ were recorded at Electro Kitty Studios in Seattle and the home studio of Ian Moore on Vashon Island, as well as the home studio of John Goodmanson. ‘Masterwish’ was masterfully produced, engineered and mixed by Goodmanson (Sleater-Kinney, Harvey Danger, Death Cab for Cutie). Musicians in addition to Danny Newcomb, Rick Friel and Mike McCready are Eric Eagle on drums with Annie O’Neill and Fiia McGann singing backup. Jason Staczek also lends his keyboard skills on a couple songs. The band is going to release a 7″ vinyl single of “One Wish”/”Sundays” on McCready’s new label Hockeytalkter Records in July, with a digital release of the full album expected to be released in July as well.

The 10th song on the album is the title track of ‘Masterwish’ and clocks in at 4:14 with an infectious groove, including part of the hook “I’ve been waiting for this moment” and once again all the members are just filling a role in perfect synchronicity, deep in the pocket. It also allows Newcomb to once again prove that he is no slouch on the guitar; in fact, he is exceptional. The last song “Luckiest Man” is an acoustic offering that is a beautiful song and a great way to end this album with some fantastic finger-picked guitar.
In a perfect world this album would be a smash hit and I hope it is because it’s that good and it deserves as many ears experiencing it as possible. It’s full of bright, upbeat and energetic new “northwest” music with nothing over- or under-produced. At the beginning of 2015 an album came out that was written by ex-Green River drummer Alex Vincent for his new band Ex’s With Benefits and I called that the early contender for “Seattle Album of the Year”. That album now has a rival in ‘Masterwish’. We highly recommend picking this one up when you get a chance. -

"your wish is my command"

Hockeytalk/rock candy Records, 2015

Review by Kent Manthie dannynewcomb pic

Danny Newcomb is a long-standing member of the Seattle local music scene, 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 with (and I don’t mean this as a cut) or even Candlebox, or Oasis, the latter in a more musical way vs. Oasis’s Beatle-esque pop. I liked the music from the get-go, that’s a fact, but it was more of a “I dig them, they’re cool. I’m sure they’d play great in a medium -to-small sized club, where things are more intimate and 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. ButMasterwish is also one of those albums that can surprise you: in the way that, at least for me, when I listened to it a second time and a third time, by then I was really hooked and then I was trying to think of what it was which didn’t set me off from the first. 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, but instead of playing anything remotely good, the radio, instead, is locked on to whichever franchise radio station – the kind that every market in the US has – that plays the exact same putrid crap that every other STAR-FMin the U.S. Plays, so as to, in a way, infect the masses with that poisonous vomitus.

Anyway, no, this is not that stuff. It has a distinctly better sound; one that would be welcome in any office I happened to be working and, because it isn’t so far off the grid, so outre, or dark or alienating in its use of sounds, etc. would not be “offensive”, as in, that stupid new label one sees everywhere, that is supposed to be describing something that has possible porn or violence or music which is a mixture of the two – “NSFW” – dumb, dumb, dumb. Sure, Betsy, over there, in marketing might like Justin Bieber or whatever the flavor-of-the-month in the “hip-hop/pop” hybrids that chase each other up and down the meaningless “charts” these days are, but does that really matter? No. What matters is that those 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; that they like it enough to want to kick back and listen to the album all in one setting.

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, whereMasterwish 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. - new indie music/ by Kent Manthie


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