On paper, this is a pairing that promises fireworks. John Doe perfected roots rock fueled by punk passion with X - making a couple stops along the way with the acoustic-oriented Knitters - and his subsequent solo career has put him in an almost patriarchal position. The Sadies fall in line behind The Band and Blue Rodeo as a third-generation Canadian band with the versatility to travel in all circles in the roots world and well beyond. Here, veteran meets soon-to-be-veterans for an album of mostly vintage country songs with a trio of Sadies' compositions tossed in for good measure.
The thing is, vintage country songs weren't built for Technicolor explosions. They're more like sparklers, designed for a slower, steadier burn. But once you adjust those expectations, you can sit back and enjoy the program. Doe doesn't have a striking country voice - that is, he doesn't sound like he just drank three cups of loneliness - but his hard-lived-in croon works. Highlights include a lively take on Merle Haggard's Are the Good Times Really Over for Good (featuring guest support from Kathleen Edwards), Husbands and Wives from Roger Miller's deep songbook and the dreamy Before I Wake, an original that finds the mother of The Sadies' Travis and Dallas Good dueting with Doe. And Doe's delivery of the Bill Anderson-penned, Porter Wagoner-owned The Cold Hard Facts of Life proves once again that mayhem is best served matter-of-factly.
In the unassuming manner that fits country outfits, The Sadies are simply smashing throughout whether asked to twang it up or, less frequently here, thump it up. If knowing your job and doing it exceptionally well equals pyrotechnics, The Sadies light up the sky.