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SALMONFEST 2017: Sugar Strings keep getting sweeter

August 06,2017 21:20

There's not many bands quite like the Super Saturated Sugar Strings; one of the most interesting bands to come out of the state thanks to their unique sound, array of instrumentation, songwriting, and the connection the band has on stage. They just ...and more »

There’s not many bands quite like the Super Saturated Sugar Strings; one of the most interesting bands to come out of the state thanks to their unique sound, array of instrumentation, songwriting, and the connection the band has on stage.
They just released their third album, ‘All Their Many Miles’,and they recently rocked it live before a packed house at their album release party on July 27 at the 49th Street Brewing Company.
The Super Saturated Sugar Strings are already well established locally and are no stranger to playing live. ‘All Their Many Miles’ is rightfully named because they have been laying many miles of evident track during their career. They’ve played countless concerts, traveled for tours, opened for national music acts, played house shows, charity events, and music and art festivals.
The six-pieces consist of Carlyle Watt on guitar, drums, and lead vocals, Theresa Watt on cello and vocals, Mariah Phelps on violin, piano, and vocals, Kevin Worrell on bass, guitar, and vocals, Logan Bean on horns and vocals, and Kat Moore on piano, guitar and bass, who also trades off on lead vocals with Watt.
Anchorage-native Dylan Lee Johnston and his band out of Nashville, the Bad Habits, with guest Megan Palmer gave a great performance in the warm-up, setting the stage for SSSS. Once they walked on stage, Bean proceeded with the opening notes to the title track, ‘All Their Many Miles’ on his shiny, brass trumpet that seemed to have absorbed every light in the room.
‘All Their Many Miles’ is one of the most playful songs on the album. Moore starts things off by singing:
       ‘Life, it seems to him a gem. A smile and swagger drew him in.’
The moment embraced their charm to draw the audience in as well.
“Love Cocoon” sounds like sea-shanty to start and ends sounding like a Beatles’ tune. It’s the story of an adventure to beat Earth’s rough elements by staying protected in a “love cocoon.” At about three minutes into the song however, it takes a welcoming turn, and suddenly it feels like a rainbow is forming above with beautiful harmonies all singing the title to the song as Watt follows with an, “Oh Yeah!”
Next was ‘Precipice’, a song well arranged by an array of sounds that makes for a nice follow-up to the elaborate ending on ‘Love Cocoon’.
After the third song in the set, the band introduced a special guest with a message who came on stage. Sarah Davies took to the mic and shared some information about her involvement with Alaska Humanities Forum and their focus this year on Alaska’s Homelessness. Davies encouraged the audience to visit akhf.org/humanties-grants, where they could get more information and support a large grant that will allow an Alaska-based individual or group to affect positive social change through art.
As Davies left the stage, the next tune warmed up.
The back and forth lead vocal duties of Watt and Moore continued as if the collective were a boat themselves with Watt paddling on one side and Moore on the other, keeping them strongly afloat and moving forward through each song.
Watt’s ‘The Vow,’ could leave on mark on you. What starts as a question lovers may ask one another in hypothetical times, becomes a straight-forward answer saying, “I swear I’ll die — right after you.” It’s one many can relate to on certain levels, and a song that definitely sticks out on the album. ‘The Vow’ possesses a great tempo change and watching Watt belt this out will bring chills down your spine. The way he screams out to his love in the song toward the end brings the song to a new level that makes you feel the impact of Watt’s raw voice and the message it carries.
Track six is an instrumental they call ‘Crocodile’. This one brings forth a new sound; like something off a Quentin Tarantino film soundtrack. Upon listening, I found myself daydreaming about slowly wandering down a long corridor of doors as Watt’s deep guitar riff repeated. I can also imagine a crocodile lurking beneath a swamp if that’s what the band was going for in this one. It was fun to see live just to witness Bean unexpectedly jump from trumpet to drums, as he delivered in keeping the slow beat pumping the blood into ‘Crocodile’.
The Sugar Strings were back in familiar form with ‘Amplified’, one that invites you to grab your sweetheart and start dancing. Moore sings about how all her feelings are being amplified in her heart, giving us her kind of love song that swings a little and then wildly breaks out in a violent cry from the drums and strings, mimicking the emotions going through an untamed heart perhaps. Another highlight in the record, along with the next track, ‘Float’.
Not too many words on ‘Float’, but you catch on to the ones that are there and they make you want to sing along. It opens with an arpeggio that resembles to me the sound of a new day dawning. Strings fall in place with the trumpet and at about two-and-a-half minutes in, a piano takes over with everyone else and then after a build up it all halts. Watt’s quiet voice begins to sing about a floating scenario:
‘And we’ll float, float in the ocean, float down the river,
float in the creek, dear, we’ll float till we can’t, then we’ll swim.’
With the style of Watt’s writing, and the album cover, which features the group placed into a colorful drawing of a tightly packed sailboat out at sea while they all hold their instruments in unusual ways, cleverly designed by Carly Garay, it’s safe to assume band has a slight fixation with all things maritime. ‘Float’ fits right into that pocket and flows through this assembly of ten songs well.
There’s a nice contrast to the rest of the record in “The Duchess of Comfort.”
It’s a fun waltz where Moore steps up to drive a more playful SSSS sound. It’s one for new listeners and long-time fans alike to enjoy, that still holds a fresh outlook on a love story only Moore can tell.
‘Long Road’ is a collaboration from Moore and Worrell where constant harmonies are showcased.
‘There’s a long black road, back to your heart — might as well make a start’
The song invites you to take a deep breath and push yourself to face the road ahead despite the hardships it may hold. It’sa hoppin' piece to ‘All their Many Miles’ that keeps your feet moving.
The tenth and final song on the album is Watt’s “Heart of Stone,” which is a throwback, of sorts with a soulful vibe which, on the CD, fades out to end the album, keeping the party going on and on.
On stage that was no different, and the song brought on a party-like atmosphere that included some help on organ played by a humbling Chris Lesesne of the band, The Dirty Hands.
“We did it!” Moore called out to her fellow bandmates with equal parts relief and exuberance.
Without a break, the music played on to a satisfied crowd and we were treated to a performance that felt a bit more casual now that the new album was complete. They headed forth with songs that did not make the album, some old favorites and a personal touch on the hip-hop classic, “Just a Friend” that had everyone dancing, laughing and reminiscing.
Seeing a band live makes a tremendous difference for a lot of reasons.
The best way to experience the SSSS is live, and I think they’d agree, but I recommend giving this album a good listen. I mean, where else are you going to hear a band singing about the different shapes and sizes of a toasty ‘Love Cocoon?’
The Sugar Strings have since been playing other gigs locally and they are part of this weekend’s lineup at Salmonfest in Ninilchik, AK. They will soon also be preparing for the "Live After Five" free concert series in town square, performing on August 10th.
Robert Foran III is a student journalist studying at the University of Alaska Anchorage.
Robert’s work can be followed at foranbrandjournalism.wordpress.com

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