Stories Often Told
Effortlessly combining surf guitar, spaghetti western themes, psychedelia, and cosmic country, this Toronto four-piece has it all going on. Besides their own versatile records and stellar live shows, members of the band frequently help out pals like Neko Case, Carolyn Mark and Sally Timms on their records. And they spent part of 2002 as the opening act for The Mekons’ 25th anniversary tour, in the guise of a Mekons cover band. If there’s anything these guys can’t do, I suspect it’s only because they haven’t gotten around to trying it yet.
Their latest record, produced by Greg Keelor of Blue Rodeo, is another gem for the band. The “Ghost Riders in the Sky” vibe of “Lay Down Your Arms” gets things off to an impressive start with the twangy surf guitar interplay of brothers Dallas and Travis Good out in full force. Both Good brothers sing as well, but vocals are a bit of an afterthought for this band. The low register vocals of spacy jangler “Oak Ridges” help to enhance the slightly spooky atmosphere. But the vocals on “The Story’s Often Told” are a tad tentative. It=EDs a downbeat country and western shuffle penned by Keelor and his Blue Rodeo bandmate Jim Cuddy (originally recorded as “Palace Of Gold,” the title track of that band’s latest CD).
The band takes a detour into ’60s psychedelia for the instrumental “A#1.” “Within A Stone” on the other hand is the band’s attempt at a Rolling Stones-style country tune, perhaps with a touch of The Allman Brothers thrown in for good measure and complete with some nice sloppy harmonies.
The cinematic sweep of “Mile Over Mecca” is next. It’s a gauzy and disorienting instrumental with horns and vibraphone in the mix. Another of the Good clan, mother Margaret, adds vocals on the spooky western noir duet “A Steep Climb.” “When you preach to the converted / Even the faithful might stray / Try not to lose count of your blessings / They’ll be all you have one day,” goes the tune.
Another member of Blue Rodeo, pedal steel player Bob Egan (ex-Wilco), helps “Such a Little Word” come alive. It sounds like prime Byrds/Flying Burrito Brothers/Gram Parsons. Plenty of bands that work this territory exclusively (hello Beachwood Sparks) come off as little more than Johnny One-Notes. But this is only one genre in The Sadies’ bag of tricks. From there it’s on to “Tiger Tiger,” a gut bucket blues guitar workout that turns into a rave up with Egan’s steel and the Good brothers’ guitar interplay leading the way.
“Of Our Land” is more disorienting psychedelia from the band, with a very pretty intro that sounds more like something from the Stones’ late ’60s period. And “Monkey & Cork” wraps things up with what sounds like jazzed up Stray Cats rockabilly.
It’s safe to say if you like your rock and roll filtered through vintage guitar effects like tremolo and reverb, you’ll dig The Sadies. And if you get a chance to check ’em out live, don’t miss the opportunity.