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A “drunken promise” made by John Doe to Yep Roc label mates The Sadies planted the seed for them to make music together. The end result is Country Club, and staffers Chris M. Junior, George Henn and Mike Madden share their thoughts on the album.

Chris M. Junior: After one listen to this CD, the question that comes to mind is: Why didn’t these guys do something together sooner? Doe sounds totally at ease singing these songs, and The Sadies provide excellent instrumentation.

George Henn: I’m not surprised at all that Doe pulls this off so well. When it comes to the X frontman’s solo career, I’ve found his material to be a bit dull and have always preferred him singing other people’s songs, particularly country tunes — see his sweet rendition of Merle Haggard‘s “”Silver Wings,” which he has been known to perform with The Knitters. Doe’s rich voice suits the melodies, but it contains enough of a gruff edge to make him sound wholly believable on this disc’s tear-in-your-beer numbers like “Till I Get It Right” and “Help Me Make It Through the Night.”

Mike Madden: Doe must have a knack for doing Haggard tunes because his version of “Are the Good Times Really Over for Good” is tremendous. He gives the nod to nostalgia a modern relevance. He also nails “I Still Miss Someone” by staying true to the original’s chugging pace. It’s a great song, but too many artists who have covered it in the past have slowed it down way too much.

Junior: The album has a pure 1960s country sound, something that Doe himself has acknowledged (although he claims he’s not sure why it sounds the way it does). Instruments and recording equipment can only account for so much of this – it really comes down to whether you have certain qualities in your musical DNA. Doe and The Sadies have this sound running through them just like the Dap-Kings have old-school R&B in their systems.
In addition to the covers, there are four originals on Country Club, and all of them stand on their own. “The Sudbury Nickel” and “Pink Mountain Rag,” two Sadies-penned instrumentals, really show off the band’s chops.

Henn: Whether it’s an original offering or an inventive spin on a well-worn classic, each selection here sounds like the real deal, and maybe we shouldn’t be so surprised. Doe has long had country leanings, if somewhat buried beneath his troubadour stance (and lost in his mostly nondescript well of solo material), while The Sadies’ sound has always owed more to, say, Bakersfield than to the band’s native Canada. It’s easy to say after listening to Country Club, but this feels like a wholly natural and logical pairing, and it’s even more pleasing to know that it clearly wasn’t forced — this collaboration was years in the making. Based on the results, if Doe and The Sadies work together again, here’s hoping they are in no hurry.

Madden: I’ll echo the point about the album having that classic country sound. It really is a nice production all around. Covers albums that are true to the original form are always meant to sound like Country Club. The album has a smooth pace to it – there are no dramatic shifts, and it’s ideal for vinyl. Listening to it, you would expect to hear some crackles and pops.