Sugar on the Floor is Lynn Drury’s trump card. The talented New Orleans singer-songwriter has built a strong local following through her emotionally-charged live performances, but her strengths as a musician and songwriter haven’t been adequately captured on record until now. Part of the problem is that New Orleans is a difficult environment for songwriters. Maybe Drury’s career would have taken off sooner if she’d done the obvious thing and followed Lucinda Williams to Texas, where the latter was easily categorized on her way to stardom. But Drury is stubborn—an attractive quality in an artist—and insisted on sticking by her roots in Mississippi and Louisiana. The New Orleans music scene is all the better for Drury’s intransigence.
Sugar on the Floor is a powerful statement made with some of the city’s best local musicians, a record made on the artist’s own terms that shows how diverse New Orleans music can be. The backing is provided by producer Carlo Nuccio, who plays drums and bass throughout, and Alex McMurray, who presents an array of musical personalities with a tour-de- force performance on lead and rhythm guitars. Tommy Malone adds other guitar parts, Ivan Neville plays organ, and a select group of other players perform Matt Perrine’s superbly-crafted string and horn arrangements.
On previous albums, Drury sounds like she’s aspiring to become part of something bigger, country or Americana, whatever. This time around, she is clearly not trying to fit in anywhere; the performances are tailored to the songs, and Drury’s lyrics are rendered more the way she sings them live, in short, dramatic bursts that enforce the narrative. Her sweet, languid country side is well expressed on “It Was Late” and the beautiful “Butterfly,” while “Smiley Face” and “Frenchmen Street” roll with a New Orleans R&B groove and the title track and “Never Wanna Be Like You” could be alt-rock exercises. The best thing about this album is that it presents Drury as a New Orleans personality. She’s tough, likes to take on challenges and doesn’t flinch at the consequences. The guy with the bad reputation wants to “take me fishin’” on “You’ve Got a Way” and she’s fascinated by him. No wonder she finds her “energies scattered all around” and ends up complaining “you just spilled my love like sugar on the floor.” She might be moved to tell him “Never Wanna Be Like You,” and she might sing in dismay that she “can’t hold on to anything anymore,” but she always picks herself to sing “Take another dose… no we don’t say no.”