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The Sadies

The Sadies

Country rock group

Music has always been a family affair for The Sadies' Travis and Dallas Good. After watching their father, Bruce, and uncles Larry and Brian play folk and country music across Canada as The Good Brothers (members of the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame), it was only a matter of time before the brothers started a band of their own. The Sadies may have grown up listening to punk rock behind their parents' back, but good old country music was always in the house. Often dressed in tailored suits, the Sadies became the ultimate vehicle for the mesh of both punk and country. The band's unusual mix of surf guitar, garage-rock, pyschedelic pop, and country music has continued to evolve on each of their albums.

After spending time with the post-punk group Phonocomb, Dallas, the original frontman along with Sloan drummer Andrew Scott, started the Sadies in 1995 as a rough-around-the-edges rock band. Travis, now home from almost a decade of touring with the Good Brothers, was asked to join the Sadies in order to steer the band's sound in a more traditional direction. The band eventually rounded out to the Good Brothers, drummer Mike Belistky (formerly of Jale and The Pernice Brothers), and upright bassist Sean Dean. Once the band began jamming, genres began to bend into one seamless alternative-country soundscape. Working with a sibling has had its difficult moments, but the Good brothers found that tension has only helped their music. "Dallas and I have fought constantly since we were little kids," Travis told Now 's Tim Perlich. "Musically speaking, it's great to be pissed off at someone while I'm playing. I like having that edge."

Surf-rock riffs, raw rock presence, the California country sound of groups like the Byrds and touches of pop psychedelia, nearly all of which was instrumental at this point, caught the attention of Chicago's insurgent country label Bloodshot Records and the Sadies toured with alt-country chanteuse Neko Case. The label quickly signed up to release the band's debut album, Precious Moments in 1998. Recorded by Nirvana producer Steve Albini, the instrumental album combined epic spaghetti western atmospheres borrowed from Ennio Morricone and took them into a dark and dirty bar where patrons downed shots of whiskey. "We don't consider ourselves an instrumental band. We never even thought about it until our album came out and everyone filed it under 'instrumental band.' By then it was too late to do anything about it," Dallas confessed to Now.

Tours with Neko Case and R&B singer Andre Williams put some much-needed road experience into the Sadies. After a call to record 1999's Red Dirt, a CD with Williams, it became apparent that the Sadies were wanted musicians who would later go onto do some major session work. "We're able to work in a lot of different styles, which I think is what sets us apart from all these garage bands or alt-country bands," Dallas told Exclaim!. The band's hodge podge of influences highlighted them as one of the more interesting bands thrown into the alt-country category; a label the band struggled with but eventually accepted. "I don't think [alt-country] is really what we are at all, although there are elements in the music. It's kind of strange, being on Bloodshot, because I think they see that side of us more than some of the others," Belitsky said to the Phoenix New Times. "There was a time when I didn't feel we fit into any obvious category, but now I realize that was pretty naïve," Dallas told Now. "If people think we're an alternative country band or a spaghetti western band or a surf band, we don't have much say in it, nor should we. That's really up to the listener to decide.

The same year of Red Dirt, the Sadies recorded their sophomore album, Pure Diamond Gold. This time they recorded half the tracks in Chicago with Albini and the other at Greg Keelor's farmhouse studio. Keelor, a member of the successful Canadian band Blue Rodeo, did his half in a mere three days, as did Albini. Pure Diamond Gold was decidedly more rock 'n' roll, and also featured a number of songs with vocals, both with the Good Brothers and guests Kelly Hogan and Freakwater's Catherine Irwin. In 2001, Bloodshot then released the Albini-produced Tremendous Efforts. The band went from twangy originals to covers ranging from the King/Gofifin "Wasn't Born to Follow" to a rowdy cover of the Gun Club's "Mother of Earth." Detroit Metro Times writer Jimmy Draper labeled Tremendous Efforts, "...stop, drop, rock 'n' roll for rodeo clowns raised on Nick Cave and Conway Twitty."

Stories Often Told, the Sadies' fourth full-length, which hit stores in 2002, marked the end of two relationships; one with Bloodshot and the other with Albini. Now signed to indie label Yep Roc, The Sadies teamed up with Blue Rodeo's Keelor again, this time for the entire recording process. "Greg was essentially a band member on this record," Dallas told Exclaim!. "He played drums on the demos, and he basically had advice for anyone who wanted to hear it." Keelor helped to refine a more cohesive overall collection of songs, which the band previously tackled with. In addition to Sadies' originals, the band collaborated with Rick White (Elevator to Hell/Eric's Trip) for two tracks and covered Blue Rodeo's "The Story's Often Told" (originally recorded by Blue Rodeo as "Palace of Gold"). All Music Guide 's Chris Nickson noted the cohesive nature of the album. "...In Stories Often Told they might just have made their most successful—and complete—record to date."

Jon Langford, known for fronting British country-punk band the Mekons and the Waco Brothers, turned to The Sadies for the 2003 collaboration Mayors of the Moon, recorded under the name Jon Langford and His Sadies. It wasn't long after that the Sadies began to record their fifth album, of all originals, titled Favourite Colours. Recorded during a lengthy touring schedule, the Sadies laid down tracks at the WaveLab in Tuscon, The Woodshed in Toronto, and at Keelor's home studio. Guest appearances by the Good's parents, the Soft Boys' Robyn Hitchcock, Calexico's Joey Burns, and Rick White created a welcoming platform for the Good brothers to showcase their own vocal harmonies. An August 2004 release sent the Sadies on the road again, where they spend much of their time. The London Sunday Times noted the strides the Sadies have made in their career; "In the 1960s, Gram Parsons hankered after the concept of 'cosmic American music.' Three decades later, these Canadian interlopers might yet discover it."

For the Record . . .

Members include Mike Belitsky , drums; Sean Dean , bass; Dallas Good, guitars, vocals; Travis Good , guitars, vocals, fiddle.

Country rock group formed in Toronto in 1995; released Precious Moments, Bloodshot Records, 1998; collaborated with Andre Williams for Red Dirt, Bloodshot Records, 1999; released Pure Diamond Gold, Bloodshot Records, 1999; released Tremendous Efforts, Bloodshot Records, 2001; signed with Yep Roc Records and released Stories Often Told, 2002; collaborated with Jon Langford for Mayors of the Moon, Bloodshot Records, 2003; released Favourite Colours, Yep Roc Records, 2004.

Addresses: Record company—Yep Roc Records, 1130 Cherry Lane Rd., Graham, NC 27253. Website—The Sadies Official Website: http://www.thesadies.net.

Selected discography

Precious Moments, Bloodshot, 1998.

Pure Diamond Gold, Bloodshot, 1999.

Tremendous Efforts, Bloodshot, 2001.

Stories Often Told, Yep Roc, 2002.

Favourite Colours, Yep Roc, 2004.

Sources

Periodicals

Boston Phoenix, March 22, 2001.

Exclaim! (Toronto, ON), November 1, 2002.

Eye Weekly (Toronto, ON), September 30, 1999.

Metro Times (Detroit, MI), March 13, 2001.

Now (Toronto, ON), August 20, 1998.

Phoenix New Times, July 5, 2001.

Sunday Times (London, England), October 17, 2004.

Online

"The Sadies," All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com (December 22, 2004).

Additional information was provided by Yep Roc Records publicity materials, 2004.

—Shannon McCarthy

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