In some ways, The Sadies' "Northern Passages" album explores what may have happened had The Byrds had taken country-rock to its ultimate extreme point. But the country part of this equation is in short supply, for the most part. It isn't until the hot-picking "Through Strange Eyes" that this music sounds truly country. "God Bless the Infidels" is even more traditional, with its mostly acoustic sound. This lesser-country-ness is because psychedelic rock is more the template for this release.
Contemporary psychedelic rocker/guitarist Kurt Vile fits right into The Sadies' musical math while participating in "It's Easy (Like Walking)," a song that explains what it must feel like to be a natural musician, where bending strings is easy - like walking. "My left hand has a permanent air guitar," they sing, driving home the point. The Canadian act explores its spaghetti western tendencies with the cruelly titled "Noise Museum." Loud and wild, yes? But The Sadies music is never mere noise.
The album is almost evenly divided between out-and-out psychedelic experiments, and country-tinged tunes. But even The Sadies' country is always a little on the rock side. And while The Sadies are likely best known for their sonic expressiveness, they also know how to write memorable songs. "The Good Years" is one such fine song. Short and (bitter)sweet at 2:43, the group steps into the heart of a woman going through a painful separation - the death of a (former?) lover. They mainly only need drum brushes and acoustic guitar strums to tell this heartbreaking story. "She can't wait to empty out the space he occupied," they sadly relay. "If he didn't know himself," they later ask, "then, how could she?" And most grippingly, "He haunted her before he was dead."
The Sadies might not cure your urge for country sounds. However, if you have an adventurous spirit, "Northern Passages" is well worth the trek.