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.
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.
Listen to a song from the album ‘Masterwish’ HERE