What started out as a mild infatuation developed into a deep affection. So after repeated spins of Sugar + the Hi-lows' debut album, it's time to spread a little lovin'.
With a playlist that seductively ebbs and flows, Sugar + the Hi-lows, released today (also on iTunes), takes you back to the future, with the standout track tucked firmly in the middle, just waiting to be uncovered. The title alone -- "See It For Yourself" -- offers a world of intriguing possibilities.
Just as apropos coming from a band with heart and soul is Sugar + the Hi-lows' special Valentine Day's presentation to you -- the song's video premiere.
The personas they embody as Sugar + the Hi-lows are extroverted examples of themselves, described by Dabbs as two "normal acoustic, introspective" artists in my January profile titled: "Introducing the First Sweet Musical Treat of 2012: Sugar + the Hi-lows."
Just like the song and the eponymous album with its fresh take on Motown soul, R&B and stylish '50s rock, the video is a fun throwback to a time of poodle skirts, hand jives and The Girl Can't Help It. Or, more important, a dapper Dabbs joked that the playful shoot gave him an excuse "to break in a new suit with some signature moves."
An accomplished photographer and filmmaker, Fluke has directed videos for notable country artists such as Martina McBride ("Teenage Daughters"), the Miranda Lambert-guided Pistol Annies ("Hell on Heels") and Little Big Town, whose "Shut Up Train" made its premiere in September at The Huffington Post.
Branching out to put the roots-based (but also unattached) pairing of John Paul White and former Dabbs collaborator Joy Williams on the map as The Civil Wars with "Poison & Wine" and "Barton Hollow," she just may do the same for the rowdier Sugar + the Hi-lows.
"The video (at right, an image from "See It For Yourself") is authentic, it's our real characters coming to life," said Dabbs, the Ten Out of Tenn co-founder who previously has performed and released records as a solo act and written or co-written numerous songs for placement in television and films. "I like clean and simple, direct to the point style. We were just letting loose and not overthinking it."
While most of the eight songs co-written and co-produced by Dabbs and Stroup for the album are gems, "See It For Yourself" is their most raucous raveup. As the amateur judges who rated records on American Bandstand used to say, decades before American Idol, "It's got a good beat and you can dance to it."
The fourth cut on the album provides Stroup a chance to finally explode out of her shell as Sugar, a sexily mini-dressed cross between Sheryl Crow and Kate Hudson.
Adroitly handling lead vocals while playing a mean tambourine, Stroup teases and pleases from the opening verse ...
The only difference is a name
Everything around here feels the same
Procrastination, always waitin' like this side of things is gonna change
... that follows up with an acerbic aside ...
"At the end of the day, I want people to believe me because the song is how I really feel," Stroup said, drawing inspiration from Hollywood legends such as Bette Davis and Greta Garbo while bringing that attitude into the 21st century with a touch of Beyonce's "Countdown" video "fierceness."
A product of a Christian upbringing who in 2008 was named one of the top 20 songwriters under 30 by A Prairie Home Companion, Stroup enjoys playing the more outgoing Sugar, admitting her alter ego "is a little bit more edgier or she's very confident."
So if you can't see them for yourselves, at least "See It For Yourself" right now. And, instead of having another piece of leftover V-Day chocolate, enjoy developing your own Sugar crush.
Follow Sugar + the Hi-lows on Twitter: @sugar_thehilows and #seeitforyourself
Follow Michael Bialas on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mjbialas