The Good Family put down some new roots on debut album
Canadian musical clan that includes Sadies and Good Family drawing comparisons to the Carter Family
By: Nick Krewen Music, Published on Wed May 08 2013
The debut album from Canada’s equivalent of the Carter Family has been a long time in the making.
Although they’ve performed live together in different configurations, The Good Family, which collectively includes veteran country and bluegrass legends The Good Brothers and the torrentially industrious, alt-country, indie-rock workhorses known as The Sadies, have finally combined forces in the studio.
Released last week by Latent Recordings label, The Good Family Album is a 10-song, 30-minute roots roulette of bluegrass, country and folk excellence that goes a long way in explaining why, in some European circles, the Good clan has been labelled the Canadian version of the Carter Family.
The parent-and-progeny lineup, which will showcase the new album Thursday and Friday night at the Dakota Tavern, includes Sadies Dallas and Travis Good; father Bruce and uncle Larry from Juno Award-winning icons The Good Brothers; mother Margaret (a support singer for two seasons of the 1970s TV series Grand Ole Country with Ronnie Prophet) and cousin D’Arcy of Badly Bent; as well as the extended Sadies family of bassist Sean Dean and drummer Mike Belitsky.
But if you’re thinking there’s someone prominent missing from the ranks, you’d be right: Bruce’s twin Brian, a key fixture of the eight-time Juno recipients The Good Brothers since their 1967 inception — and Brian’s wife Susan — are notably absent.
In an interview from his Hastings, Ont., homestead, Travis Good says the initial germ for The Good Family Album project came from an invitation that he and Dallas extended to their parents to join them on tour in the U.K. back in 2003.
“We billed them as the Good Family for the opening band,” Travis explains. “That’s when we started thinking of doing something with it. That’s why uncle Brian wasn’t on this one — it sort of started with the immediate family. Before that, the idea was to do it as The Sadies with Margaret Good.”
Obviously, the addition of Larry as well as Brian’s daughter D’Arcy expanded the project’s parameters. What changed?
“It was easier to do with more people,” Travis chuckles.
How much easier? When the project was finally green-lighted, shoehorned between constant Sadies projects and Good Brothers tours, producer Dallas doled out assignments.
“He called meetings and said, ‘OK guys, we’ve all got a job to do: everybody write a couple songs and nail ‘em down and let’s record them,’” recalls patriarch Bruce, 67, from the Newmarket home he shares with wife Margaret.
“So that’s exactly what we did and this is the result.”
And an intriguing result it is.
There’s the Sadies’ electrifying twang on “Coal Black Hills” additionally powered by the frenetic picking of Larry Good’s banjo and his daughter D’Arcy’s soulful singing; the country fire stoking “Life Passes (And Old Fires Die),” sung by Dallas and co-written by Daniel Romano; the up tempo bluegrass flair of “Outside Of Saskatoon;” the beguiling “Restless River” shuffle showcasing the two elder statesmen — Bruce and Larry; and the fiery “Instantmental” that concludes with an unearthed tape of a two-year-old Dallas and a seven-year-old Travis hamming it up in the studio.
“Isn’t that wild?” asks Bruce. “To find a tape from 1970-god-knows-when, to find those words on a tape. It was quite a surprise for Margaret and I because we didn’t know that was going on there. Dallas just slipped that in as a little treat at the end.”
There are also other symbolic sentimental undertones to The Good Family Album: fiddler and singer D’Arcy’s participation marks the completion of a journey that began following a return from Vancouver and an especially dark period in her life.
“We lost her for a few years due to drug addiction,” Margaret explains. “We tried to bring her back a few times. Her mom and I then went out and found her and it was just in time, and since then, she never looked back.”
And Margaret has one of her own: “Same Old Song” is not only the first song she ever wrote, but features the original 1978 guitar track demoed by Terry Clements, a close family friend who served as Gordon Lightfoot’s guitarist until Clements passed away in 2011.
“Terry encouraged me to do a demo of the song, and so I did,” Margaret recalls. “Then I put the cassette tape up in the cupboard and forgot all about it until Dallas suggested recording it for The Good Family Album. They took quite a bit of time in the studio ensuring that Terry’s part stayed on there.”
Travis Good says the new album has strengthened the family bond.
“We’re seeing each other more than just at Christmas and Thanksgiving now. But I guess we’ll find out when we start doing shows — that’s when a band really finds out if you’re family or not,” he laughs.
And for future project, father Brian assures even more Goods will be introduced, rhyming off another 13 that could participate.
“We’ve got a pretty deep well to dig from,” he notes.