If Sugartown were to be the subject of one of those Rock Family Tree diagrams which trace how a band came to be formed, it would make for very impressive reading, especially given they only ever released two albums in 1995 and 1997.
The two people picture above are Gwen Stewart, who sang vocals, and Douglas MacIntyre who played guitar and wrote most of the songs. The other two members of the band when it first formed were Paul McGeechan on keyboards and Gordon Wilson on drums.
There is a huge connection with Love and Money, one of the ‘almost made it’ bands of the Scottish scene in the 80s and 90s, with Douglas, Paul and Gordon all being part of the group in its final few years. Paul had previously been in Friends Again, a band much loved by your humble scribe.
James Grant, the frontman of Love and Money, and previously the guitarist with Friends Again, helped to co-write a couple of Sugartown songs, while Ken and David McCluskey, from The Bluebells, got involved in playing and providing backing vocals.
Gwen had been part of Wild River Apples, a Glasgow band who were making some ripples in the early 90s who got as far as signing a deal with Chrysalis Records only to have their dreams dashed when the label was taken over by EMI, and they were dropped without ever setting foot in the recording studio. After a few years away from the music industry, but still in her early 20s, she accepted an invitation to be part of the final gigs of Love and Money as backing vocalist, following which the idea was floated that she become the lead singer in Sugartown, with Douglas telling her he had written some new songs with her voice in mind.
Sugartown became part of the roster at Marina Records in Hamburg, a label that has, and still maintains, great connections with the music scene in Scotland. The first album was Swimming In The Horsepool (1995), with it being followed up by Slow Flows The River (1997), both on CD only.
It all came to an end around the turn of the century, and while Douglas turned his attention to new projects and running the Creeping Bent label, Gwen again drifted away, pursuing a career and bringing up a family.
That was, until earlier this year. Firstly, Last Night From Glasgow, via its re-release arm, Past Night From Glasgow, and with the support of the folk at Marina Records, provided Sugartown with a vinyl release in the shape of Mount Florida, a 12-track compilation bringing together the best of the songs from the two albums. The promotional blurb for Mount Florida tells you all you need to know:-
Gwen’s vocal performance on the tracks featured on the PNFG album are sad and soulful, channelling the melancholia of Bobbie Gentry and Dusty in Memphis. The 12 songs on the album are down-tempo and resigned, as Gwen’s voice imbues a tenderness for the wee small hours.
mp3: Sugartown – There Was A Time (from Swimming In The Horsepool, 1995)
mp3: Sugartown – I Won’t Let You Go Again (from Slow Flows The River, 1997)
Mount Florida, along with a lot of other great records are available from Last Night From Glasgow. You should have a think about taking out a membership and getting yourself some great deals. Click here for info.
Oh, and Douglas MacIntyre was also a co-author of Hungry Beat, one of the best music books to have been published over the past twelve months. I’m actually intending, in 2023, to offer up with a few more book reviews for TVV, and if anyone fancies offering any sort of guest posting, they would be very welcome.