Album Reviews

The Sadies

Northern Passages

Artist:     The Sadies

Album:     Northern Passages

Label:     Yep Roc

Release Date:     02/10/2017


In the past few months this writer has covered these outstanding Canadian roots bands: Blue Rodeo, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, and now, just as enduring as those two, the Sadies. It feels like a trilogy of sorts. This is the tenth studio album for the twenty-year-running quartet comprised of singer/guitarists Dallas and Travis Good, bassist Sean Dean and drummer Mike Belitsky. The list of artists they’ve collaborated with, in addition to Case, features names like John Doe, Jon Langford, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Robyn Hitchcock, and Neil Young. Those influences have surely shaped the band’s sound which encompasses a rather wide range, described by some as acid-folk-country-punk.

This album was recorded in the basement of Dallas and Travis’ parents’ home north of Toronto in the winter of 2015. Ethereal psychedelic folk appropriately imbues the opener, “Riverview Fog” and “The Good Years” yet dissonant punk takes hold in “Another Season Again” and “There Are No Words.” The disc’s most memorable track, partly due to its repetitive chorus is, ‘’It’s Easy (like Walking)” featuring Kurt Vile. The layers of voices and guitars throughout seem to connect the album together despite the divergent sounds and paces of the songs. Often it’s like Neil Young & Crazy Horse meets the Mekons. Acoustic often blends with electric as typified by the long instrumental outro to “The Elements Song.” Actually, close listens will reveal some rather intricate riffs in tunes like “Through Strange Eyes” and the aptly titled closer, “The Noise Museum.”

When I think of this band, I recall two things, one rather silly. A rather uninformed DJ at one of my radio stops pronounced the name “Sad Eyes.” (C’mon man!) The other speaks to their solid nature: at a concert where they backed Neko Case, the power went out, bathing the building in total darkness. Fortunately, the band was connected to a generator and they did not miss a beat. It turned out to be rather fitting; Neko Case and the Sadies playing some dark tunes in total darkness, as if you’d turned out all the nights in your listening space.

When viewing the February touring schedule of Canadian dates , the Sadies are opening for Blue Rodeo; it seems rather tempting to cross the border even in the dead of winter.

—Jim Hynes

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