Following the unexpected death of Dallas Good last week, MAGNET’s Mitch Myers revisits some of the Sadies’ many precious moments
The Sadies were singing/guitar-playing brothers Dallas and Travis Good, bassist Sean Dean and drummer Mike Belitsky. They were a rock band that became an institution, enjoying good will and camaraderie with musicians and fans the world over. The Sadies had refined a niche of indie-rock/alt-country that was uniquely Canadian but still universal in its power and reach.
Dallas and Travis had a musical childhood watching their father and uncles perform in country/bluegrass band the Good Brothers. Their Ontario roots were marinated in these historical sounds, but beyond that, the Sadies incorporated genres as varied as surf, rockabilly, exotica, garage, psychedelia and punk—all of it grounded within the earnest institution of old-fashioned folk music. By mining the past so deeply and forging it into something new, the Sadies created a distinctive sound. Let’s call it Northern Americana.
Until COVID struck in 2020, the Sadies were in perpetual motion, working a hundred gigs a year for two decades at home and abroad. Toronto, Vancouver, Austin, Brooklyn, England, Spain—their circuit was continuous. Home, rinse, repeat. A Canadian natural resource, they made records supporting singers like Neko Case, John Doe (X) and Gord Downie (Tragically Hip). In this way, the Sadies had taken after their role models in the Band, who started backing rocker Ronnie Hawkins and made history playing behind Bob Dylan before becoming luminaries in their own right.
The Sadies’ sense of community stemmed from the Good Brothers, featuring Dallas and Travis’ father Bruce, his twin Brian and younger brother Larry. The original Good Brothers participated in the “Festival Express” concert tour, traveling by train across Canada along with the Band, Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin. That led to 1971 album James And The Good Brothers, with members of the Dead and Jefferson Airplane guesting.
Bruce Good’s sons followed the family tradition, and Travis became a full-time member of the Good Brothers at age 18. Dallas joined the family band, too, but only played a few tours before blazing a trail for the Sadies. They first formed in 1994 and were influenced by rockabilly king Carl Perkins and surf-instrumentalists Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet. The band evolved quickly when Sean switched to upright bass and Belitsky joined up on drums. Travis had always enjoyed sitting in with the Sadies, and Dallas promptly stole his brother away from their father’s band.
The Sadies encountered many Canadian legends, and what greater badge of honor could there be than recording a song with Neil Young? They connected with Young for 2010 tribute album Garth Hudson Presents A Canadian Celebration Of The Band. After that, the Sadies were invited to open for Young & Crazy Horse on a Canadian tour.
The band’s collaborative attitude resulted in numerous enticing pairings. The Sadies played with Case on 2004 live album Tigers Have Spoken and made Country Club, a 2009 LP with Doe. Their rapport with Downie led them to record 2014’s And The Conquering Sun, released three years before the Tragically Hip frontman passed away. The Sadies made two albums with late soul legend Andre Williams and recorded Mayors Of The Moon with Jon Langford of the Mekons.
It was Case who brought the Sadies to Chicago, where they recorded with Steve Albini. They toured with Blue Rodeo and worked with that band’s Greg Keelor, who produced 2001’s Tremendous Efforts. The Sadies recorded and toured with Jon Spencer in rockabilly outfit Heavy Trash, and their friend Gary Louris of the Jayhawks produced two Sadies records, 2007’s New Seasons and 2010’s Darker Circles. They also collaborated with everyone from Robyn Hitchcock to Buffy Sainte-Marie to Kurt Vile.
For a real sense of the Sadies and their fellowship, check out 2006 double album In Concert Volume One. It’s a grand live summit featuring the group and their friends (including Case, Louris, Spencer, Hudson, Langford, Albini, Keelor and Kelly Hogan) and family (dad Bruce, uncles Brian and Larry, plus mom Margaret) that’s highly reminiscent of the Band’s classic The Last Waltz.
The Sadies released 10 studio albums of their own. Each one was a step forward, and their depth and determination came through loud and clear. Underneath the strum und twang, the flashback flourishes and the roots-rock renderings were decades of loving history. There are wide-open spaces in this music.
The Sadies are still yours to discover. R.I.P. Dallas Good (1973-2022).
Our review of the Sadies’ essential last album: