For the past couple of years, the Blue Moon Farm in Silverhill, Ala. has hosted a musical game stew dubbed the Frog Pond, a house concert comprised of whoever happens to be in the house. Luminaries like Mary Gauthier, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Malcolm Holcombe and Randall Bramblett have dropped in, but a group of Frog Pond regulars - acclaimed singer/songwriters Will Kimbrough and Grayson Capps, journeyman guitarist Corky Hughes and husband-and-wife folk duo Anthony Crawford and Savanna Lee, aka Sugarcane Jane - felt a kinship which morphed into a separate collaboration and eventually an actual band, their moniker Frankensteined from the names of the participants.
Recorded on a porch and produced by the band and Grammy winner Trina Shoemaker, Willie Sugarcapps' eponymous debut sounds every bit as organic as its origin. Given their ramshackle evolution and individual schedules, the band eschewed collaborative songwriting in favor of each writer bringing songs to the group. The group's creative identity is largely defined by the efforts of Kimbrough (five songs, two being outside co-writes), Capps (three) and Crawford (two), but the magic of the aggregation is in the seamless way that all five members complement and inspire each other in a truly organic manner.
Kimbrough's Gypsy Train and Trouble, Capps' Poison and Crawford's Energy all stand as highlights, but "Willie Sugarcapps" is an album packed to the rafters with scuffed brilliance, a result made all the more surprising by the fact that these songs weren't tempered in the forge of constant rehearsal and touring, but by casual jamming and an almost supernatural level of musical chemistry. You can keep your celebrity judges and jumped-up music competitions; Willie Sugarcapps has the realest voices around.