Canadian country rockers The Sadies are a peculiar animal for our native ear. Straddling alt-rock and country is no revelation, bands like…well The Band, Wilco and Nada Surf have been doing it for decades. They’ve all tended to be traditional rock bands with one foot in country’s western waters. The Sadies are more comparable to The Flying Burrito Brothers, no bad thing at all. We Irish have a strange relationship with the cult of country and western thanks to the ‘cornycopia’ of our own country scene. Rooted in the halcyon days of line dancing, two tone button downs and straw hats latticed by county colours, being wrapped in the sunburnt embrace of your cousin while ‘Friends in Low Places’ blared from the tape deck has mutated into the smell of mothballs permeating the air as Nathan Carter’s ‘Wagon Wheel’ plays on repeat.
Never fear, Northern Passages is full of contrast. Gently fingerpicked opener ‘Riverview Fog’ couldn’t be more different to the harsh, punchy garage guitar driven ‘Another Season Again’ one of the more straight forward rockers on the record punctuated by primitive pairings of thumping toms. There’s a laidback looseness in much of the playing on this record which really lets it breathe. ‘It’s Easy (Like Walking) features Kurt Vile, earworms abound in its phrasing and lyrics with some great echo-chamber guitar that sounds like it’s coming from the bottom of an abandoned mineshaft haunted by the ghost of an old gold prospector.
‘Questions I’ve Never Asked’ verges into garage territory again with vicious guitar notes torn from fretboards. There’s a warm quality to the production on Northern Passages that gives a really familiar feeling, like it’s coming from a small F.M radio wrapped in your favourite woolly jumper.
This record is full of quality songs penned within in the confines of country, if you’re prone to slight facial ticking upon absorbing a little too much twanging Gretsch you may be in for a slight seizure. If you like your Gram Parson and Tom Russell Northern Passages is right up your dusty high-noon street.