The Sugar Darlings – Thirsty for Your Love | Album Review

The Sugar Darlings – Thirsty for Your Love

Self-produced CD

12 songs – 45 minutes

Fronted by Miche Love Dennery, one of the most dynamic vocalists on the Montreal blues scene, The Sugar Darlings have already established themselves locally by winning last year’s Quebec to Memphis competition and representing Canada in the International Blues Challenge. And they’ll be making their mark with a wider audience with this debut release.

It’s a stylish blending of blues, soul, funk and more that delivers produces a contemporary sound thanks to its tight, four-piece arrangements and Miche, whose alto stylings come with the feel of classic soul and blues singers of the past.

Nominees in the prestigious Maple Blues Awards as the new group of the year, the Darlings are fueled by the double, lockstep leads of guitarist Paul Lucyk, a veteran of The Franklin Electric and Midnight Miles, and saxophonist Kaven Jalbert, an award-nominated veteran who’s familiar to fans in the U.S. through his work with Dawn Tyler Watson and the Ben Racine Band. They’re anchored by bassist Neil Robinson and drummer Danick Tardif. They’re augmented by keyboard player John Sadowy, percussionist Michel Medrano Brindis and Janell Lucyk and Clerel Djamen, who add backing vocals.

An all-original set that was recorded by Philippe Massabki at Tone Bender Studio, “Why” opens the action with a brief horn run before Dennery forcefully questions a love about the reasons for his infidelity, which includes multiple indiscretions and late-night calls from other women. Driven by a steady shuffle, the band produces a large sound throughout. But Miche vows she’s “Not Gonna Cry,” something that comes through loud and clear in the rapid paced song that follows.

“Thirsty for Your Love” keeps the theme going forward atop a medium-tempo, stop-time shuffle beat with Lucyk and Jalbert allowed plenty of space to work out. The soulful “Grow Up” comes with a decided ‘60s feel as it warns a lover his actions are getting his love ready to head for the door. The message is driven home by a stellar mid-tune instrumental break. You’ll be grabbing your honey and heading to the dance floor for “Funky Darling,” which praises a new significant other, and “Freaky Feet,” an interesting number with a unique, somewhat discordant sound that works.

The rapid-fire “South Shore Rock” reinvigorates the sounds of the early ‘50s before the funk kicks in again with “Love Is All I Need,” another cautionary tale in which the man isn’t man enough to hold his woman down. The band’s sound shifts dramatically for “Crying Out,” adopting a Latin beat and a sweet, minor key to support Dennery’s prayer for release from the pain of a shattered relationship.

The haunting “Karma” follows, taking listeners through a range of musical stylings along with the message that “you better watch your back” because “what goes around comes around.” It gives way to “To Be Free,” the only ballad in the set, before closing with “Oh Lord,” a funky number that professes that the Almighty is “all I need.”

If you love the soul side of blues, you’ll find a lot to like with this one. It’s well-produced with interesting arrangements that’ll keep you dancing and bopping throughout.

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