Take a swig of SweetJuice and toast a rockin' revision
By Kyle O'Brien
As a duo, Adam & Kris are engaging performers, belting out their often social and politically themed folk songs with energy and soul. With their band, SweetJuice, Adam East and Kristin Deelane prove they can't be pigeonholed as mere bang-the-drum-circle-slowly folkies.
After 10 years as an acoustic duo, Adam & Kris have added bass and drums, plus a few amps and effects, to beef up their sound. Drummer Matt Kramer, formerly with Peasant Syndrome and the Afterglow Stars, holds down the rhythm along with bassist Paul Summers Jr. The resulting sound is a diverse one that can just plain rock.
SweetJuice's self-titled debut album, recorded live back in May at Northwest Portland's The Green Room, is a commendable sampling of its sound. The songs range from simple roots rock tunes and tender ballads to reggae-tinged groovers and all-out angry rockers.
Adam and Kris are the two songwriters of the group. Their individual efforts are easy to separate, considering they sing their own. Deelane's contributions cut deeply, rock hard at times and take a first person stance on everything from self-loathing to self-affirmation, love and loss. Her voice can be tender and soft, as on the slow grooving ballad, "The Apple." But it's strongest when she's belting with an attitude, as on the rockin' "I Hate Myself," where she growls and seethes, "He saw me, he saw I was ugly, he lied and said he loved me, then he ran back to pretty."
East's songs are rootsier, sounding a bit like Tom Petty in their simplicity, as on "Ugly Kid Joe." His voice has a scratchy melodicism that, when combined with Deelane's on their practiced harmonies, brings a good amount of depth. The band also has a sense of humor, which, when it appears - as when Kris stops to tune her guitar and the band kicks in with a guitar tuning jam - rounds out the mood of the album.
One of the selling points of the band is strong musicianship. Kramer and Summers click solidly backing Adam and Kris' Guitar grooves. What really makes this album stand out is the fiery guitar solos by East. Some would think that the guitar solo is a lost art, but he proves that point wrong as he shreds through solo after solo with bluesy abandon, especially on the faster rockers, like "Anthem."
On the downside, "SweetJuice" does suffer from those little quirks that often plague live albums, like sound that can fade and swell, a sometimes uneven mix and tunes that end with cut-off applause. But the band's energy and musicianship rise above the minor glitches, making for a satisfying debut by a promising band.
Published in THE OREGONIAN o A & E o September 3, 1999