Veteran Canadian alt-country band The Sadies may not have exploded into mainstream popularity during their storied career, but they’ve amassed a deep catalog of powerful material. They’ve also gained the admiration and respect of peers who esteem them as highly as the Sadies’ devoted fans.
During 23 years together, the quartet have done substantial work with an eclectic list of artists including John Doe of Southern California roots-punk legends X, indie-rock and alt-country hero Neko Case, Garth Hudson of key influence The Band, psychedelic pop veteran Robyn Hitchcock, Gord Downie of The Tragically Hip, Neil Young, and Chicago’s own Jon Langford.
Led by brothers Dallas and Travis Good, the band brings 11 new songs from its tenth album “Northern Passages” to Thalia Hall on Saturday, when it opens and also serves as backing band for Justin Townes Earle. Sonic touchstones for the new material run a broad range, including many of the band’s most-beloved musical friends. The hard-living mea culpa “There Are No Words” takes a surprising turn into heavy, confessional pop-rock a la New Jersey quartet The Smithereens.
The album boasts a fresh collaboration for the resume, as well. Former guitarist for The War on Drugs and current Violators bandleader Kurt Vile sings lead vocal on “It’s Easy (Like Walking).” Vile’s cozy drawl decorates beatific curlicues of jangling guitar, as the song’s lyric plainly states the Sadies’ ease in doing what they do best. “You could say my hand’s got fancy footwork dancing up and down my fret neck,” sings Vile. “Like playing guitar with your brother; like planting one foot in front of the other.”
“The Elements Song” draws from The Sadies’ full palette. Drummer Mike Belitsky plays crashing psych-rock crescendos that echo words expressing homespun wisdom gained by perseverance and survival. A twanging solo section alters the mood, propelled by bassist Sean Dean. The song coalesces with a flurry of bristling punk power chords. The Sadies are primed to become three of your favorite bands in the span of just one song. Imagine what a full concert set list will do.
Jeff Elbel is a local freelance writer.