SON VOLT / JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE

SON VOLT / JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE

THE SADIES

Sat, April 29, 2017

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm

$29.50 - $45.00

This event is 21 and over

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SON VOLT
SON VOLT
"There are only two kinds of songs," Townes Van Zandt said, well before he died. "There's the blues, and there's zip-a-dee-doo-dah." The new Son Volt album is titled Notes of Blue.
Simple as that, maybe.

Just now pushing fifty, Jay Farrar, the creative force behind Son Volt, is still not as old as his voice. Not nearly. His singing voice, an ageless gift which sounds something like old timber looks, like the unpainted walls framing Walker Evans' best portraits from Let Us Now Praise Famous Men: simple, durable, weathered and grooved and unplanned.

Unplanned.

Notes of Blue will be the twentieth album — including a couple live releases and two movie soundtracks — to which Farrar has lent his voice and songwriting.

He is not quite a famous man, which is probably a comfort except when bills need paying. Plenty praised, though, from the moment his first band, the influential Uncle Tupelo, recorded a punked-up version of the topical Carter Family song " No Depression," and named their debut album after it. Photographed for magazine covers, including the inaugural edition of No Depression magazine, which argued for the arrival of something called alt-country back in 1995, when Son Volt's first album, Trace, came out.

To be clear, Notes of Blue is not the blues of appropriation, nor of beer commercials, nor especially of the W.C. Handy awards. It is the broader blues of the folk process, where they have always lived, irrespective of culture and caste. The blues as one of many languages available to shape and recast as the song needs. The blues as a jumping off point.

Or, as Jay says, " For years I've been drawn to the passion, common struggle and possibility for redemption that's always been a part of the blues. Everyone has to pay the rent and get along with their significant others, so many of the themes are universal. For me, the blues fills that void that's there for religion, really. That's the place I turn to be lifted up."

The possibility of redemption.

"There will be damage, and there will be hell to pay," he sings on the opening track " Promise the World" . " Light after darkness, that is the way."

The bleak prospect of redemption, he sings on the first single, " Back Against the Wall" : " What survives the long cold winter/Will be stronger and can't be undone."

Quintessential Son Volt. Tough, solitary, unflinching.

"There's always a threat of darkness on the horizon," he says. " There's also a path to a better way inherent in the blues."

And if that echoes the plaintive words of a long-gone hillbilly singer, there's no accident in that. " Hank Williams is really the key," Farrar says. " He showed us that the blues as a music form was an integral part of country music early on."

For Notes of Blue, Farrar's notion of the blues focuses on specific guitar tunings, courtesy Skip James, Mississippi Fred McDowell, and Nick Drake. And on the structure of the songs themselves – repeated lines, a few phrases borrowed from older blues. Both provided entry points to his new songs.

"To me there's always been a mystique attached to those three tunings and those three performers," Farrar says. " So I was compelled to get inside those tunings and see what was there. Skip James' tuning in particular, supposedly has its origins in the Bahamas, it's a D-Minor tuning, so it has built into it kind of an intangible haunting effect. Something you can't quite put your finger on but it's there."

Those entry points mean that Notes of Blue features far more fingerpicking than previous Son Volt albums, and even (a nod to Fred McDowell), the bellowing, rambunctious slide of " Static."

"All of that was the target," Farrar says with his wry, concise clarity, " but the arrow landed somewhere between Tom Petty and ZZ Top."

Add one more piece, the almost feral blues of the George Mitchell field recordings. " All the performers are unheralded," Farrar says, " and yet compelling."

Belleville (where Uncle Tupelo grew up) is not St. Louis is not Ferguson, but we in flyover country are by now accustomed to our role in the greater society. We provide wheat and corn and fuel, a migratory labor force. The occasional spectacle.

And yet Jay Farrar seems nearly at peace with all of it. " Yeah, there's a glimmer of hope," he says. " What I get from the blues is that there's a chance for redemption.Whether this record achieves that is anyone's guess."
JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE
JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE
On a rainy Nashville Thursday last October, Justin Townes Earle leapt onstage at the famed Ryman Auditorium to accept the 2011 Americana Music Award for Song of the Year. The triumphant evening capped a turbulent twelve months for the gifted young musician categorized by significant hardship as well as notable achievement including debut performances at New York's Carnegie Hall and on The Late Show with David Letterman.
Just one week later, Earle retreated to the western mountains of North Carolina to record his next album, Nothing's Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now – an intriguing title given the importance of change in Earle's approach to art. "I think it's the job of the artist to be in transition and constantly learning more," he says. "The new record is completely different than my last one, Harlem River Blues. This time I've gone in a Memphis-soul direction."
Those who've followed Earle's growth since releasing his debut EP Yuma in 2007 won't be surprised he's shooting off in another direction. For an artist whose list of influences runs the gamut from Randy Newman to Woody Guthrie, Chet Baker to the Replacements, and Phil Ochs to Bruce Springsteen, categories are useless.
"Great songs are great songs," Earle says. "If you listen to a lot of soul music, especially the Stax Records stuff, the chord progressions are just like country music. And just like country music, soul music began in the church, so it has its roots in the same place."
THE SADIES
THE SADIES
Since their formation in 1994, Toronto's Sadies have developed, even perfected, a style of music that is uniquely their own. Possessing a deep fondness and reverence for the best of country, bluegrass and blues (CBGB!), they are equally informed and influenced by everything from 60s garage and psychedelic rock (Pebbles, Nuggets, et al) to surf instrumentals and punk rock. You're as likely to find an enthusiastic fan of Negative Approach or Crime as one of Santo & Johnny or Merle Travis within their ranks. It's all relevant and it all fits and that sort of depth goes a long way in helping to understand how they came to develop such a broad platform from which to launch their own musical explorations.



Through a trio of brilliant albums that began with 2002's "Stories Often Told", 2004's "Favourite Colours" and 2007's Juno Award nominated, "New Seasons" – they finally topped themselves with 2010's "Darker Circles" an accomplished album that received a Juno Award for Best Video and was short-listed for the 2011 Polaris Prize. "Darker Circles" was a departure from their previous releases, which despite having some fairly, er, dark themes and subject matter, resonated strongly with fans and critics alike. It stands out as the most fully-realized song cycle from the group – until now.



September 17th, 2013 will see the release of "Internal Sounds" an album that heralds a new level of achievement for The Sadies. This was largely due to refusing to be pressured by any deadlines but their own, taking their time over a period of nearly a year to get everything "just right" and using up every resource they had and every favour they could call in. "Internal Sounds" marks the first time Dallas Good has assumed the producer's role and this helped craft a record that is the closest the band has yet come to capturing their sound on an album. Vocals are clear and prominent, guitars are positioned high in the mix and the album has a tone that is overall fuller and richer. Some key assistance was provided by Peter J. Moore (mixing/mastering) and Gary Louris (who has produced much of the bands past work) with some vocal coaching and control room refereeing. The resulting album greatly benefits from all of these considerations and is by far the most confident and assured of their career. The final track features an amazing vocal performance from Buffy Sainte-Marie that is a thrill to hear and a fantastic way to finish off the record.

The numerous collaborations that the band has been involved with over the years have resulted in some of the most surprising and fun work they've done. These feature a tremendous range of artists from expat British punk rockers (Mekons' Jon Langford – "Mayors of The Moon" Album), L.A. troubadours (John Doe, formerly of X – "Country Club"), old timey R&B masters (Andre Williams – more on him later), to up and coming alt-country starlets (Neko Case "The Tigers Have Spoken" many tours and contributions to many of her solo albums). They've also worked extensively with ex- Pussy Galore founder and current Jon Spencer Blues Explosion frontman Jon Spencer's "Heavy Trash" project with NYC guitarist Matt Verta-Ray – they've backed Matt and Jon extensively on tour and played on much of their "Going Way Out With Heavy Trash" album as well. There's hardly ever been a band as versatile and adventurous as The Sadies which is why they don't have too many peers with that kind of track record.



When Garth Hudson, organist with the Canadian rock institution, The Band, put together an all-Canadian collaboration album recently he leaned heavily on The Sadies, who, in addition to contributing their version of "The Shape I'm In", backed the much-loved Mary Margaret O'Hara on her contribution "Out Of The Blue". They also played with Neil Young on his rendition of "This Wheel's On Fire". This ultimately led to being invited to open for Neil Young and Crazy Horse all across Canada in late 2012.



The Sadies have also recently performed live on several occasions with former Guess Who founder and Canuck songwriting legend Randy Bachman where they were thrilled to get a chance to perform some of their own favourite super-obscure Guess Who songs with the man himself. Of The Sadies, Bachman has this to say; "It's quite different when I play with The Sadies than when I play with anyone else. I love the stand-up bass, it gives an incredible gigantic bottom end sound. I think the two brothers Dallas and Travis are just amazing guitar players. They've got their own cool identity".



The band continues to enjoy a long and fruitful relationship with 50s R&B legend Andre Williams. In 2012 the excellent "Night and Day" album was released to much acclaim. Previously they'd put together a country album with
him, "Red Dirt" which was a blast for all involved and saw the band do several memorable gigs with Mr. Rhythm throughout the US & Canada before heading off to Europe for a well-received month-long tour playing the classic hits as well as a lot of the new material. Andre once said "You cannot find a better bunch of characters, men or musicians than The Sadies".



Growing up in a musical family served the Good siblings well. Being the sons of noted Canadian country music icon Bruce Good and their singer / schoolteacher mom, Margaret and hanging out around their "Good Brothers" extended family, they learned a thing or ten about music. This helped them foster the broad appreciation and respect for the best of bluegrass, country and gospel that has continued to serve them well from an early age. Just this year saw the release of the Good Family Album via the Cowboy Junkies' Latent Recordings label. The album features Dallas, older brother Travis, Cousin D'Arcy on fiddle and vocals, Mom, Dad & Uncle Larry (2/3 of the Good Brothers) as well as the rest of The Sadies. Everybody sings, everybody plays and it's a diverse and entertaining collection of songs. No Depression raves "I almost defy you to listen to this album and not find yourself continutally gawping at the quality on display. A high-water mark for North American (not just Canadian) music."



The Sadies have consistently pushed themselves forward into new areas while refining their approach to what they do – creating a constantly evolving catalogue of work and picking up legions of new converts with each successive tour. Their concerts, legendary since their earliest days have only gotten better over the years. Though the three-hour marathons of yore may happen less frequently, The Sadies have always prided themselves on a well-paced live show, starting off strong and gradually building things up to fever pitch then bringing it back home (often with a nice surprise or two along the way), before sending everyone home with a smile on their face. The live experience has it all, blistering instrumentals, country rave-ups, super-human guitar interplay and mind blowing psychedelic expeditions that can end up anywhere. There are not many bands that have been together nearly two decades that are truly making the best music of their careers, but The Sadies have definitely established themselves as one of the leaders in that very uncrowded field.



These fellows thrive by a simple rule, if you make a mistake in the studio, you do it over – but you don't make mistakes onstage. The live show has to do everything the records do (just a little faster and a little drunker). They're ready to hit your town in support of the release of the remarkable new album "Internal Sounds" this fall. If you've never seen them live, the time to change that is now – if you've seen them before, it's time to take another look. And buy yourself a copy of "Internal Sounds" it might end up being the best record you'll hear this year!



~ Greg Dinwoodie, friend

July 2013
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