Charlie Worsham never wastes a note; his crisp leads move smoothly from jazz and blues to rockabilly and pop and country. The six songs on his new EP drive hard with joyous abandon (“For the Love”), but then they pull back on the throttle, caressing the wheel with tenderness (“Believe in Love”).
The album opens with the jazz blues of “Sugarcane,” a loping and shuffling tongue-in-cheek lounge song whose refrain momentarily echoes Nancy Sinatra’s “Sugar Town.” Worsham’s skittering lead guitar floats through the instrumental bridge with a reminiscent of George Benson, and the song ends on a bright union of organ and guitar notes. The straight-ahead rocker “For the Love” celebrates the singer’s reason for playing music: love, not fame — “If I was in it for the money, I’d have a mansion on a hill by now / If I was in it for the milk and honey, I’d have honeybees and a cow.” The song clearly conveys the fun Worsham has playing his music. “Half Drunk” rides along shuffling drums, moving slowly as the singer revels in his feelings for his lover and the ways that little moments in life — like making a declaration of love when half-drunk — often turn out to be some of the sweetest.
“Fist Through This Town” rides along a Tom Petty vibe, especially in the cascading leads on the instrumental bridge, conveying the disgruntlement of living in a small town whose hope has now faded, while the crystalline warmth of Worsham’s vocals and his pure lead licks in “Believe in Love” affirms that with a little love, all will be well. The album closes with “Hang On to That,” a country-soul paean to the wisdom of holding on to what is meaningful, no matter what.
Sugarcane brilliantly showcases Worsham’s inventiveness as a songwriter, his radiant genius as a guitarist, and his evocative skills as a vocalist, and the subtle complexities of the songs on the album offer new layers of sound to hear on every listening.