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Doe, The Sadies, Borges bring the fun

TT the Bears, Cambridge, Mass., May 5, 2009

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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When John Doe isn't busy being a member of X, the seminal LA punk band he helped found, he may be pursuing his solo career. And when he's not doing that, maybe he's with The Knitters, an X off-shoot playing country music. And if that doesn't suit Doe's musical muse at the particular time, he can always fall back on The Sadies, the very fine Toronto-based band with whom he just recorded a covers disc of traditional country songs, "Country Club."

The later has been his music of choice in recent weeks as Doe just did four dates with The Sadies in their homeland before hitting the Boston area during the first of eight U.S. shows.

And the combination worked quite well. One gets the sense that Doe did this project for the fun of it, and that came through from the get go with a solid take on I Still Miss Someone. Other highlights included Roger Miller's Husbands and Wives, Bobby Bare's Detroit City, a more rocking, intense version than country of X's The New World and Merle Haggard's Are the Good Times Really Over. His vocals aren't the prettiest or cleanest, but they worked very well within the country context. And it wasn't so much that Doe and The Sadies had totally different takes on the chestnuts. Instead, they breathed new life into the songs, making them come alive once again.

Doe intimated that The Sadies were his backing band, but they were a lot more than that. In fact, they took lead vocals on several songs including a good turn on Anne Leigh. The meat of the band are the Brothers Good - Dallas and Travis. Both are quite tall, and both play really well. They exchanged leads on songs with Dallas often giving a steely bite to the proceedings. They certainly added a lot to the music being made. Drummer Mike Belitsky was sure handed behind the skins, giving a solid country beat throughout. The Sadies remain a plough ahead with the music kind of band. Dallas Good often closed his eyes when he sang, and they rarely cracked a smile or say much. In other words, creating intimacy was not their strong suit.

One part that Doe did not explain was his interest in talking. Early on, he said he did not like when groups talk during shows. In his case, it was a situation of "listen to what I say, not what I do," because he sure talked a decent amount. Doing so was entirely appropriate and gave more flavor to the evening, but that was in sharp contrast to his supposed disdain.

Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles opened with an excellent set. Borges scored on a bunch of counts. She has a wealth of good material whether original or cover, such as the ultra-lively take on Al Anderson's It Comes to Me Naturally. She owns a lively voice, but more importantly she displays a chunk of charisma on stage. She's off the cuff funny throughout whether telling about a phone call from Anderson earlier in the day, which she missed because she was still asleep at 11:30 a.m. or joking about her band mates, making for a lively evening.

Known more as a roots rocker, Borges et al rocked out much more on the new "The Stars Are Out" CD. But on this night, the roots and country sides of Borges and band were fully on display. They did not disappoint at all.