Sugar Mountain

In the Raw

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With their guitarists cranking out big, juicy riffs and a singer exuding a hip-shaking swagger, Sugar Mountain embody the loose, brash rock & roll sound popularized by the Rolling Stones and Faces in the '60s and '70s and revived more recently by the Black Crowes and Jet. The big difference about Sugar Mountain is that they hail from Spain. However, one of this disc's more impressive qualities is that there's little inkling about these guys' Spanish origins. Javier Ruano sings without a particularly pronounced accent. It's slightly detectable on the rare quiet moments and their Kinks "Picture Book" cover. But on their numerous raucous tunes, he frequently sounds like a more robust Keith Richards with a bit of Mick Jagger sass thrown in. And while their English lyrics might not be the most profound, profundity isn't a necessity when the band rocks so convincingly. Guitarists Ruano and Yago Carreño's powerful riff-work demonstrates that they did a great job digesting early Stones albums. Drummer José Salgado and percussionist Nestor Busquets create a pounding beat; they even clang a cowbell. The band also utilizes organ and keyboards to add extra layer of greasy soul. David Vazquez's honky tonk piano enlivens the twangy "Good Thing's Gone." While there isn't one breakout song, the disc is constantly strong. The album's middle section, from "Downhearted Girl" through "You Can't Hide," particularly engages the listener. But select any album track -- from the wall-rattling classic rocker "Queen of the Blues" to the more subdued "Running Around" -- and you'll find something enjoyable to listen to. Producer Eric Ambel (Del Lords, Yayhoos) lends his expert blue-collar rock touch, and occasional guitar playing, to the proceedings. Although Sugar Mountain might still be searching for their own unique sound, they do an excellent job of mining the masters to create a wonderfully entertaining slice of spirited, no-frills rock & roll.

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