Rockit88: Sweet Sugar Cane

Rockit 88


This is a great album to have on in the background when folks come over. The sound is at once so unique and familiar that the guessing games as to whose album it is and the provenance of the songs is bound to break out. Maybe it’s just my living room, but not a one of my pals who came by called it the music of a local band right off.
Welcome to Sweet Sugar Cane, only the second album from T.Dot blues/roots rock band Rockit88 and it’s linked to the same pedigree as the music of The Band and early Van Morrison. Fronted by dual singing songwriters Neil Chapman and Bill King, Sweet Sugar Cane is the game changer for the band and the In Door to a whole new identity as an original act.
As such, the stakes are high but on most tracks, the band raises the bar then easily soars over it.
The album opens with 35 seconds of Southern fried Gershwin-ish piano riff, which nicely sets up ‘Summertime Is Here’, a mid-temp invitation to party down summer style, sprinkled with slide guitar licks like stardust and the propulsive drumming of Jim Casson. From there it’s on to all manner of original material inflected with country blues (‘I Never Knew The Blues’), swamp rock touched by barrelhouse piano (‘Brother, Sister’). Among ballads so American Gothic stately you can almost see the moss hanging off them is the brilliant r'n'b infused ‘Angels Crying’ and the show-stopping title track, dusted with the kind of organ lines which link it to genre gems like ‘Long Black Veil’.
Folks say good material will elevate a band’s performance and certainly both King and Chapman bring their A games to the vocals, giving each tunes a specific signature. The ensemble playing is tight without feeling constricted and the sincerity just oozes out the tracks.
This is a class act all the way and the best album of roots Americana by a non-American band released this year. Essential listening for the fedora-wearing hipsters fooling around with roots music.
Big props to Toronto music magnate Gary Slaight, who not only inspired the album but also paid for it. Way to rock it dude; coin well spent.

Lenny Stoute