North­ern Pas­sages takes the Sadies down a fa­mil­iar path

The Hamilton Spectator - - A&E - DAVID FRIEND TORONTO —

As­pir­ing teenage bands stake out re­hearsal space in their par­ents’ base­ments all the time, but it’s less com­mon to see vet­eran rockers like the Sadies de­scend­ing into their mom and dad’s cel­lar for cre­ative re­ju­ve­na­tion.

Af­ter roughly 23 years of record­ing mu­sic to­gether in stu­dio en­vi­ron­ments, the Sadies switched it up for their new al­bum “North­ern Pas­sages,” which ar­rives Feb. 10.

Even the band’s singer and gui­tarist Dal­las Good was sur­prised how quickly he warmed to play­ing in a pit of sub­ur­bia.

“The par­ents gave us a re­ally good deal,” jokes Good, who plays in the band with his brother Travis.

“(We went) with the the­ory of get­ting some very cheap demos with great cater­ing.”

Aside from his mom’s home­made sand­wiches and cook­ies, the Sadies found an at­trac­tive record­ing space. It’s not sur­pris­ing since their fa­ther is Bruce Good, co-founder of The Good Broth­ers, a multi-Juno win­ning coun­try rock band that had a huge hit in the ‘’70s with “Fox on the Run.”

The acous­tics were stel­lar and they weren’t pay­ing for the room by the hour, un­like most pro­fes­sional stu­dios.

“We started record­ing up there with ev­ery op­por­tu­nity we got,” Good adds.

Tough­ing it out with the con­crete floors and dry­wall didn’t seem to bother any of them ei­ther.

As one of Canada’s most-de­ter­mined tour­ing acts, the Sadies are used to grind­ing it out for their craft. They’ve crossed the coun­try sup­port­ing the Trag­i­cally Hip many times over and col­lab­o­rated with home­grown acts like Blue Rodeo (The Sadies open for two Blue Rodeo shows at FirstOn­tario Cen­tre Con­cert Hall, for­merly Hamil­ton Place, on Feb. 16 and 17).

“And the Con­quer­ing Sun,” their 2014 al­bum, united them with Gord Downie for a project that took seven years to com­plete.

Turn­ing the Sadies’ base­ment tapes into “North­ern Pas­sages” was a much quicker process fin­ished over last win­ter.

With ev­ery­thing cen­tral­ized in one space, the band was able to record a song and save it for later. If they didn’t like it, they’d tweak the sound to their sat­is­fac­tion, or take an­other run at it later.

“It was great to be able to try ev­ery gui­tar through ev­ery am­pli­fier — ev­ery pos­si­bil­ity,” Good says.

“North­ern Pas­sages” cap­tures the Sadies in their com­fort zone, play­ing pes­simistic tunes lib­er­ated by clas­sic coun­try-west­ern and

rock ‘n’ roll spirit. “Riverview Fog” con­tains echoes of Si­mon & Gar­funkel be­fore the lyrics turn dark, while “God Bless the In­fi­dels” of­fers an ironic tone of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion for those deemed sin­ners.

“It’s Easy (Like Walk­ing)” leaves the strong­est im­pres­sion, with the Sadies’ lat­est col­lab­o­ra­tor Kurt Vile spread­ing his dis­tinct Philadel­phian ram­ble across the track.

The Sadies had asked the singer if he wanted to add his touch to the song, which was nearly com­plete. Vile quickly re­turned a ver­sion with en­tirely new vo­cals he’d writ­ten him­self.

“We’re lucky enough to be in a mu­si­cal com­mu­nity with peo­ple who want to work with us — and we want to work with,” Good says.

Putting the fi­nal touches on “North­ern Pas­sages” came at a dif­fi­cult time for the Sadies. The al­bum was recorded around the same time Downie’s ter­mi­nal brain can­cer was di­ag­nosed and news be­gan to qui­etly spread within the mu­sic com­mu­nity be­fore it was made pub­lic in May.

It’s not a pe­riod that Good wants to re­count.

“Please, I can’t re­ally go there,” he calmly says when asked about the ex­pe­ri­ence. “I don’t think it’s at all rel­e­vant how my per­sonal feel­ings are about all this.”

But af­ter a mo­ment of con­tem­pla­tion, he says, “As much as it’s been a tough year for me, it’s been a very in­cred­i­ble year for Gord.

“Say­ing things like, ‘I’m so proud of him,’ just sounds so in­ap­pro­pri­ately trite. But he’s the man who walks (among) the stars. He’s the best.”

The Sadies were mak­ing plans to record with Downie again two years ago, be­fore his con­di­tion was re­vealed.

As they saw it, their fusion was an on­go­ing ef­fort, not just a fleet­ing side project. Good said in a 2014 in­ter­view he’d al­ready started writ­ing ma­te­rial for a se­cond al­bum.

But as time passed, some of those ideas landed on “North­ern Pas­sages” in­stead, he says.

With the Sadies al­bum fin­ished, Good thinks it might be time to cir­cle back with Downie.

“In or­der to make an­other al­bum you pretty much have to put the Sadies stuff on hold — so now’s the time to do that,” he says. “Gord ... you’ll be hear­ing from us very soon.”

The Sadies’ “North­ern Pas­sages” will be re­leased Feb. 10.

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