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Worth Watching: John Doe and the Sadies Make the Music Go Bang

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Guess what happens when John Doe and the Sadies mix their combustible ingredients together.

It might not cause an explosion, but be forewarned. If their stage performance is anything like Country Club, the album they joined forces to make that was released in April (Yep Roc Records), there’ll be enough shaking going on to scream ”Duck and Cover.”

Doe, whose other side project is with the folkier Knitters, must be the hardest-working man in the music business now that James Brown has left the building. The brains and brawn behind X, the ground-breaking Los Angeles punk group he formed with Exene Cervenka in the late Seventies, Doe wrapped up the band’s Total Request Live Tour in June. Then, to top it off, they played two more shows last week in the L.A. area.

Now he’s going back on the road for about a dozen dates with the Sadies, beginning Monday (July 27) in Lawrence, Kansas, followed by a Tuesday visit to the Lion’s Lair, a suds-and-sweat bar on seedy Colfax Avenue in Denver that Doe apparently likes. While promoting his excellent album A Year in the Wilderness, he performed there in June 2007, collaborating with members of his opening act, Dead Rock West.

So playing with the Sadies won’t be a major career transition for Doe, who has always possessed a country heart, along with the passionate voice to prove it. His timeless vocals mesh perfectly with the earnest touches of Western twang (muddy guitars, slap-happy fiddles) provided by the Sadies, whose ability to convey that style is even more remarkable considering they are a foursome from Toronto. (John Doe, middle, is shown with the Sadies, from left: Sean Dean, Dallas Good, Mike Belitsky, Travis Good.)

Country Club, an album that covers classic country tunes made famous by Merle Haggard (“Are the Good Times Really Over for Good”), Waylon Jennings (“Stop the World and Let Me Off”), Hank Williams (“Take These Chains from My Heart”) and other Music City legends, came together after Doe made what he says was “a drunken promise or threat” to the two brothers in the Sadies, Dallas and Travis Good.

Doe and Exene, a songwriting pair who were once husband and wife, also penned “It Just Dawned on Me,” a perky duet that’s an album highlight. Occasional Doe collaborator Kathleen (“The Golden State”) Edwards (yet another Canadian) adds a nice feminine touch on the track, proving this Country Club isn’t so exclusive.

Other guest vocalists include: Dead Rock West cowgirl Cindy Wasserman, who was Doe’s singing partner during that hell-raisin’ 2007 tour; Veronica Jane, Doe’s daughter; and Margaret Good, the mother of Dallas and Travis.

Not that Doe (shown performing with X in Denver last April) needs any help. His sad-sack renditions of “Night Life” (enhanced by X drummer DJ Bonebrake on vibraphones and Eric Heywood’s achingly beautiful pedal steel) and Kris Kristofferson’s “Help Me Make It Through the Night” are slow but steady tearjerkers that make you feel shot-and-a-beer thirsty. Then on Johnny Cash’s rollicking “I Still Miss Someone,” he could pass for The Man in Black himself.

The Sadies, a musical Canadian blend since 1998, are no strangers to collaborations either, most notably recognized as Neko Case’s live band on The Tigers Have Spoken before co-writing a few songs (including the riveting “Hold On, Hold On”) and performing on her 2006 breakthrough, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood. They contributed three original tunes to Country Club, playing fast and furious on the foot-stomping instrumental hoedowns “The Sudbury Nickel” and “Pink Mountain Rag.”

While Bruce Good, the family patriarch, plays autoharp on two numbers to round out the family affair, it’s Travis (guitars, fiddle, mandolin) and Dallas (guitars, keyboards), along with co-Sadies Sean Dean (upright bass) and Mike Belitsky (drums), who handle most of the instrumental chores on the album, which sounds straight out of Bakersfield.

Still, expect their honky-tonk show with Doe to be anything but traditional. Bursting with energy, the Sadies have also been called reckless and unpredictable, sometimes playing up to 40 songs in a set.

So stand back, America. This combination could be extremely dangerous – and wildly entertaining.

Denver show info
• Where: Lion's Lair, 2022 E. Colfax Ave.
• When: Tuesday, July 28.
• Price: $20 (plus possible service charge).
• Ages: 21+
• Doors: 7 p.m.
• Show: 8 p.m., with Denver-born Jill Sobule (the original “I Kissed A Girl” girl) opening.

Extras, credits
• For more tour dates for John Doe and the Sadies, go to their MySpace page.
• Publicity photo of John Doe and the Sadies by Judith Coombe.

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