Rick White and the Sadies Speak to an Old Friend on Their Self-Titled Album

BY Vish KhannaPublished Jun 12, 2024


Following up on what their band the Unintended once intended, Rick White and the Sadies have reconvened for a lovely album and meditation on life and loss, which swirls and sways the way only their idiosyncratic psychedelic folk can. It picks up where they were rudely interrupted and now feels like a talk that can go on infinitely.

Sometime after White's monumental band Eric's Trip disbanded, White was a roommate and collaborated often with the late Dallas Good, who led the Sadies and died suddenly and far too young in 2022. Good joined White's ever-evolving band, Elevator, and their bond was seemingly always solid; 2017's "Riverview Fog," which kicks off the Sadies' Northern Passages, is ostensibly a letter that Good wrote to White, expressing his desire to see and play music with him again.

In a sense, the dialogue continues on this new album; these songs often sound like a conversation that White and the Sadies are calling out for Good to have with them from wherever it is he might be.

This is not to suggest that every piece on this remarkable album is "about" Dallas, per se. The Unintended also featured Blue Rodeo's Greg Keelor, and their self-titled 2003 debut consisted of mind-expanding, exploratory songwriting, with everyone's fingerprints all over it. For his part and beyond the Unintended, White often wrote songs expressly for the Sadies to sing, and also contributed artwork to their albums and overall aesthetic. If ever there was a fifth Sadie, it was Rick White.

At the risk of being reductive, White often seemed to be expressing himself to Good and the Sadies — Michael Belitsky, Sean Dean, and Dallas' older brother, Travis Good — via his lyrics. The band and all of us who receive White's words in his uniquely shy yet bold voice, learn quite a bit about his mindset via his intimate art and music, and they often have the personal quality of a direct dispatch from a familiar figure.

On the new record, the opening and closing songs, which are "THE END" and "LIFE" respectively, feel like they're specifically for and about Dallas. "The ancient old question still haunts me my friend / Where will I be when life comes to the end?" White sings on "THE END," still curiously hoping that the always thoughtful Good can provide him with some kind of clue about what's in store for the rest of us.

But by "LIFE," the ache gives way to a grief-imbued resignation, housed in a southwestern swing propelled by Travis Good's tasteful licks. "I'll accept what's become though I don't understand why it's done / Oh why is it done? / Well I guess that one day I'll find out / Just what this whole thing was about."

If these are questioning songs, elsewhere White might be providing updates of his own for Good. Some seem positive, like in the charging folk-pop of "Standing in the Yard" ("Here in nature's pure delight with open mind / And seeing all the billion clues that ooze a love that heals my being"). Or reassuring, such as the Syd Barrett-flavoured "HERE" ("I'm here, in my body, in my body, in my body…" goes this mantra).

But others, like "SPELLBOUND," with its galloping menace, sound like updates from a world still reeling from a domineering pandemic ("This ominous unknown thing drives us mad! / So terror fills the town / And panic spreads around / Cuz to the horror, we are spellbound"). It's as though White figures that Good might be keen to know what Earth is like without him around, and so he gives it all to him, straight.  

Some report that when they lose a loved one, they still communicate with them every day. It may seem one-sided, but there's so much optimism in the activity of keeping someone who's gone close enough that they're still here.

Dallas Good had a way of forging many brotherhoods beyond his own, and here, his brother-from-another-mother Rick and his Sadies siblings come together to speak with Dallas again. The result is sincerely great, philosophical and emotionally profound rock 'n' roll music, and we're all fortunate to be allowed to eavesdrop on their conversational jam. 

(Blue Fog)

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