Gordon Downie / The Sadies

Gord Downie, The Sadies, And the Conquering Sun

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While Gord Downie has managed to attract an arena-level audience in his native Canada (and a few markets in the United States) for his work with the Tragically Hip, it's always been obvious that he's wanted to do more adventurous work outside the confines of the band, and if he was going to pick another Canadian act to collaborate with, he could scarcely have done better than the Sadies. The Sadies have a body of work that testifies to their eclectic spirit and deep instrumental skills, and they put these gifts to good work on Gord Downie, The Sadies, And the Conquering Sun, a set of ten tunes he recorded with the group. The group's echoey atmospherics are used to their best advantage on songs like "Los Angeles Times," "Saved," and the title cut, but the Sadies also rock harder here than they have in recent years, letting loose with some six-string firepower on "Crater," "It Didn't Start to Break My Heart Until This Afternoon," and "Demand Destruction," with Travis and Dallas Good making their guitars roar and howl, while bassist Sean Dean and drummer Mike Belitsky keep the backbeat lean, hot, and satisfying. With the Sadies providing top-shelf backing, Downie is free to go into rant mode on his lyrics, and while he reveals he can sound insightful and literate when he's of a mind (particularly on "Devil Enough" and "Saved"), he clearly relishes the chance to go on a beatnik lyrical bender on some of these tunes, and "Budget Shoes," "I'm Free, Disarray Me" and "One Good Fast Job" prove he's pretty good with such stuff, sounding a bit further out than on the average Tragically Hip session but maintaining an emotional clarity even when the lyrics tend not to scan quite so well in the literal sense. While both Downie and the Sadies both have plenty on their plates, And the Conquering Sun suggests they work well together and should take another stab at this some day.

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