Very infrequently does the opening minute or two from a record grapple the psyche so much that you are glued to the stereo for the next 45 minutes wondering where the time went afterwards.
That is exactly what happened when Coco Love Alcorn’s newest baby, Sugar was spun for the first time. A friend told me to prepare for one of the most soothing, uniquely refreshing vocalists in Canada, and that is exactly what was delivered. Sugar, while far from Alcorn’s debut, is a structured exercise in sensuality, told from the tongue of a singer who belts them off with the best of them. With a generous helping of jazz, a dash of folk, a sly, sarcastic smile and a trenchant, almost pervasively good groove, Sugar has become my jazz record to play for those who don’t like jazz, and my pop record to showcase for those disenfranchised with the cloudy bubblegum shrouding the airwaves of late. Sugar is neither a pop record nor a jazz record: it borrows and is influenced by the souls of both, straddling each equally in a way that plucks the best bits from each side. This is a genuine triumph, one worthy of all the hyperbole that has been attributed to Alcorn, including these emphatic words from this enraptured scribe.
Produced by jack–of–all–trades wizard Steve Dawson, Sugar is equally Alcorn’s tour de force as it is Dawson’s, as his influence is woven into each thick groove. “Steve was my main partner in crime for making the record,” replies Alcorn. “He was absolutely the right man for the job in a multitude of ways. Aside from topnotch musicality, a vision in line with mine and a stunning guitar player, he offered something else that I value very highly, a perfect balance between the open–mindedness to try any idea and the ability to make a decision when needed.”
The result is a calculated collection filled with mysterious bits and pieces, the parts that add enough sexuality to heighten Sugar beyond most pop meets jazz fare. For example, Alcorn wishes on the set that, ‘I never meant to write a love song,’ but responds with ‘but how can something that feels so good be wrong?’ That lyric, along with emotionally sensual baggage it comes with encircles the themes drenched into each glistening groove on it. Something that sounds this sweet must have been drawn from something relatively tart.
“Musically I wanted my influences of jazz, folk, and R&B/pop to all be present yet not fight with each other. The most important thing I did was hire the right producer and musicians and then let them all be free to express themselves. When I listen to the record I can hear the openness we approached it with.
Everyone put their heart in but also left lots of space for my voice, the melodies and the tones of the instruments to shine,” explains Alcorn.
This musical and thematic expansion, the sweet–with–a–lot–of–bite image and meld of pop, jazz and other styles is a trait Alcorn forcefully embedded into this project, much more than her older material. “I think with all my previous albums I was trying to pick one style of music,” replies Alcorn. “I finally embraced the fact that I’d always love exploring different genres and the space between them. I have always been on a quest to “find myself,” but finally discovered that there were many aspects to my “self”. I also realized that life would get pretty boring if the journey was ever over and I was “found.” I love that I evolve a bit every day with each new experience I have, and that is definitely evident on Sugar, in the music, arrangements and lyrics.”
“I’ve been touring Sugar pretty steadily since it came out last year and so far every show has been a bit different. OK, let’s see. I do always play “Sugar,” the title track and “Falling Into You”. They’re both really fun to sing and they give me room to improvise. I play all the other songs from the record at one time or another but I really mix it up, to keep myself entertained. There are a few new songs that I play a lot, but I do not want to ruin that surprise.” Expect a sensual, patient evening of song, one that reflects the album but is not limited in scope. Since the album is so good, one can only imagine how enthralling Alcorn will be live as well.