There’s a radio station out of High Point, N.C – WIST FM,
Country Legends – whose transmissions often flood my car stereo for at least an
hour of my frequent trips between Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham. And I’ll be the
first to admit it tends to go a bit heavy on the ’80s for my liking, but any
opportunity to hear a golden cut from the halcyon days of Bakersfield shuffle and countrypolitan glitz –
much less a honky tonk classic – is worth the occasional clunker.
Indeed, the station’s playlist serves as a pointed reminder
of country music’s grand history, sharp songwriting and memorable
characters-something lacking in much of the country music being made today, on
either side of the alt-divide.
In listening to Country
Club it would seem that the Canadian country-rockers in the Sadies and
perennial smart-guy-punk John Doe have driven that same stretch of I-85, tuned
in to 98.3 FM, and waxed nostalgic. Now, clearly, that scenario is far-fetched
and unnecessary. Doe’s inserted country into his punk since X’s salad days and
aside from his rootsier solo work fronts X’s Hee-Haw spin-off The Knitters. And
The Sadies have used country and rockabilly as a foundational element of their
psych-rock since Day 1. So this is a natural collaboration.
But what’s remarkable is the even-keeled presentation of
these songs. Instrumental flourishes are subtle and restrained. Doe’s weathered
voice leads the band like he’s an Opry star of old. It’s hard to tell the
originals-three Sadies-penned cuts and a contribution co-written by Doe and
Exene Cervenka-from the 11 choice covers. Tribute is paid to everyone from Cash
and Merle to Willie and Waylon to Tammy Wynette and Hank Snow. But like it
ought to, the songs become the singer.
It seems only a matter of time before these cuts come
through the speakers somewhere down I-85.
Standout Tracks: “The
Cold Hard Facts of Life,” “Before I Wake” BRYAN