Gord Downie The Sadies and The Conquering Sun – s/t

Arts & Crafts

Every Tom and Dick working the rig and watching Hockey Night in Canada will be no stranger to Gord Downie’s work in The Tragically Hip. And though not quite hitting the sales levels that The Hip do anyone pondering the alt-country realm see The Sadies as giants. So on paper The Conquering Sun looks like a veritable dream team of Canada’s most loved and/or respected musicians.

Downie’s solo efforts have been largely uneven sometimes surpassing the heights of Hip albums but more often following misstep tangents of faux-bardic indulgences. Meanwhile The Sadies have been honing their own thing for decades with last year’s strong-as-ever Internal Sounds being a case in point of their stature on Canada’s musical landscape.

The Sadies are no strangers to collaboration; they have backed the likes of Neko Case John Doe and in one of their finest moments Rick White and Greg Keelor as The Unintended (easily the best psych-country record you’ve never heard).

The Conquering Sun sees them all doing their respective thing almost trying on their different hats in turn: “One Good Fast Job” is plodding bar-rock that could have been a throwaway from the early days of The Hip’s Up to Here whereas “Budget Shoes” displays that patented Sadies spaghetti western twang. Thankfully Dallas Good still takes a few moments to show us why he’s the world’s master of the country-fried guitar solo and lets that telecaster sing.

Ultimately these are Canrock heavyweights who know what they’re doing and can churn it out. Nothing stands out — there’s certainly no “Grace Too” or “Cut Corners” here — but The Conquering Sun stands strong as a workmanlike rock record.