Outside Music 23339-9087-2
The Sadies formed in 1994, in Toronto, and it says something about the music business that a band this good isn’t better known in the US. Two of the members, Dallas and Travis Good, are nephews of Brian and Larry Good, of the well-regarded Canadian country group the Good Brothers. Country music forms a part of the band’s sound, but they’re so versatile that they can play blues and garage rock with the same skill and conviction. They’ve played and recorded with blues singer Andre Williams, and with John Doe of X (Country Club, 2009), but are perhaps best known for their work with Neko Case.
Internal Sounds is the band’s tenth album under their own name (seven additional albums are collaborations with other artists). The crashing, overdriven guitars in “The First 5 Minutes” are raw garage rock that will take you back to the late ’60s -- I flashed on Van Morrison and Them, but the tune evokes the sounds of a number of great bands without ever merely stealing from them. During a solo section in the middle of the track, twin guitars snake around each other to exhilarating effect.
In sharp contrast to that opening track are the acoustic guitars and mandolin and the vocal harmonies of “So Much Blood.” I suppose a comparison to the Band is inevitable here, but the low-toned guitar solo sets this track apart, and the songwriting is so strong that it stands on its own. The country punk “The Very Beginning” and “Another Tomorrow Again” are tough without sacrificing finesse, and contain enough flashy guitar work to demonstrate that the Sadies have instrumental chops to match their great songwriting.
The vocal harmonies in “Leave This World Behind” are the purest traditional country, but “The Very Beginning” seems to take the best parts of the Outlaws and the 13th Floor Elevators to create something altogether new, and “Starting All Over Again” recalls the glory days of AM radio, when bands could try anything and have the possibility of coming out of nowhere with a hit. Every song on Internal Sounds is a surprise because the Sadies have a broad command of musical styles that they fully exploit. Despite its variety, the album never feels scattershot -- it has the unified sound of a band with a distinct identity that knows how to get the sounds it wants.
Legendary Canadian folksinger Buffy Sainte-Marie, now 73, joins the band on the closing track, “We Are Circling,” for which she wrote the lyrics. It’s like nothing else on the disc -- a stunning, moody piece of folk psychedelia that closes this perhaps too-short (just over 34 minutes) disc.
Dallas Good produced and mixed Internal Sounds, and he’s given it a lot of rock’n’roll energy while letting the details show through. Mike Belitsky’s no-nonsense drumming rings out, and Sean Dean’s solid bass lines are clear and full. A lot of rock’n’roll discs will get more attention than Internal Sounds this year, but none will be better.
. . . Joseph Taylor