Published Jan 01, 2006The relatively insular world of Canadian rock sometimes makes for strange bedfellows. Witness the ever-tightening bond between the Sadies and Blue Rodeo. Sure, deep down they belong together on a peyote binge in the Joshua tree desert, but each band's new album clearly shows that Rodeo remains an unshakable Canadian institution, while the Sadies continue to take their bastardised version of country music into deeper dimensions.
At the very least, Greg Keelor's production work on his young charges' Stories Often Told should dispel any further speculation as to who wears the rock and roll pants in the Rodeo family. "Greg was essentially a band member on this record," Sadies founder Dallas Good explains. "He played drums on the demos, and he basically had advice for anyone who wanted to hear it." The result on Stories is the Sadies' patented garage/surf/
country-rock put in a wider context. The big change is that it's the first time one of their albums sounds like a cohesive whole, with songs naturally blending into one another in an echo of great psych-country touchstones, like the Byrds' The Notorious Byrd Brothers.
Dallas says it was about time that the band spent more than their usual two or three days making the record. "Being unprepared in the studio has never been an issue with the Sadies," he says. "It's always been about, what can we do to make the songs more interesting? Like, putting on a recorder; I can't play recorder, but my uncle Doug can, so we got him down to play on the record. That happened a lot more this time."
Although Dallas began his musical career in a variety of Toronto post-punk outfits like Phono-Comb, with the Sadies, he immediately began reflecting the outlaw country style that the Good Brothers the band headed by his father Bruce and uncles Brian and Larry brought to Canada in the 1970s. The Sadies started as a more straightforward rock band in 1995, with Sloan's Andrew Scott on drums, before Dallas decided to try a traditional direction and asked his brother Travis to join. "I'd been playing with the Good Brothers since I was 18," Travis says. "Dallas asked me to join to play fiddle, but after a while I wanted to play more rock because I was kind of bored with playing straight country. So I guess it was me that brought in more of the surf sounding stuff, and our sound progressed from there."
After winning over uber-producer Steve Albini a connection made through Dallas's friends in Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet, who subsequently worked on their first three albums the Sadies found a home at Chicago-based Bloodshot Records and began their hectic touring schedule, which included stints backing up Neko Case and Andre Williams. Their recent tour with California space cowboys Beachwood Sparks is clearly evident on the new record. "Everyone we play with rubs off on us in some way," Travis says. "We did a tour with the Waco Brothers and up until then I wasn't really into [Waco Brothers/Mekons bandleader] Jon Langford's stuff. Every show he asked to use my amp and afterward there would be beer spilled on it and every knob would be cranked. Then I really didn't like him, but in a way it was really cool. Now I love him. We just did an album together that should be great."
If Stories Often Told turns out to be the Sadies' mainstream breakthrough, it won't be because of Blue Rodeo's association. Dallas still believes that it is their versatility that continues to expand their audience. "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. But if we became popular in a mainstream way, I'd be really excited and flattered, because that would tell me that we've been doing things the right way. I don't think this new record is a big departure from our last one, but it certainly is from our first one. I'm still not confident in how it will be received, but the one thing I know for sure is that we finished it. We did it the way we planned it, and we're all satisfied with that."