Friday night, you can get a Canadian dose of mellow-rockin', guitar solo-jamming country Western at Chicago's Metro, courtesy of The Sadies.
The band will serve both as the opening act and backing band for singer Neko Case, and is touring in support of its CD Favorite Colours.
If you've never heard of The Sadies, think of spookily jangly Western-tinged songs like The Outlaws' "Ghost Riders in the Sky," and of the hippy-rock explorations of early '70s bands like the Flying Burrito Brothers and the Grateful Dead. The band favors long jams, melancholy pedal steel guitars and instrumental songs (the disc opens with a nice 2½-minute instrumental, with plenty of guitar string picking called "Northumberland West.").
The disc ends with a dreamy, strummy hymn crooned by musical cult icon Robyn Hitchcock. The Sadies' fifth album of psychedelic western jams features more vocals than in the past, but still lends itself to a dreamy evening of laid-back listening. All you need is a campfire to make it complete.
The expansive roster of the YepRoc label, based in Chapel Hill, N.C., is worth checking out for anyone with a hankering for eclectic alternative music, roots-oriented rock and honky-tonk country. Last year, the label issued a solo album from Posies singer-songwriter Ken Stringfellow (Soft Commands), as well as a nice twang-rock collection from Jake Brennan and The Confidence Men ("Love and Bombs"). Brennan's band is exactly the group you'd want mixing it up on a cold night in the corner of your favorite warm neighborhood bar.
But the YepRoc label isn't just about C&W flavors. It's also issued a great pure-pop record by The Butchies called Make Yr Life. Colored by tight, crunchy guitar riffs and lilting harmonies, this all-girl trio's fourth album features quick, catchy pop-rock tracks, and closes with a slow, whispery, sinuous remake of the classic Outfield hit, "Your Love." Think of the Bangles and the Donnas, with more of an alternative Jill Sobule edge.
For song samples and more information about these and other YepRoc releases (the label will soon be issuing a new album by Chris Stamey), check the Web site at www.yeproc.com.
Another independent label worth checking out is the Tennessee-based Palo Duro Records, which celebrates "country music, Texas spirit." The label has had a handful of releases, including an acoustic project featuring several core artists.
Texas Unplugged Vol. 1 offers a warm mix of solid C&W, ranging from T.C. Taylor's fiddle and thigh-slapping "Don't It Make You Wanna Dance?" to Terri Hendrix's amusing tale of needing to "get a life" because of her obsession with her TV "Clicker." Larry Joe Taylor also offers a bit of vacation humor in the Jimmy Buffett-esque "Bicycling in a Border Town."
Texas Unplugged also offers a track by Eleven Hundred Springs, that has its own full-length album, Bandwagon, on Palo Duro. Bandwagon offers more than a dozen old-fashioned feeling country songs, and takes pot shots at the currently "clean cut" Nashville that doesn't embrace "Long-Haired Tattooed Hippie Freaks" like themselves. One song is even titled "Hank Williams Wouldn't Make It Now in Nashville Tennessee."
From the cry-in-your-beer AM radio quality of the "Northside Blues" to the sadly funny, over-the-top "she left me" song "The Only Thing She Left Me Was The Blues," this is the kind of reverb-friendly country that used to fill the radio waves in the '60s and early '70s.
Underlining their throwback influences, the disc ends with a double time version of the Johnny Cash classic "The Rock Island Line."
For more information on these and other Palo Duro discs, check the web site at www.palodurorecords.com.