Pack your bags and prepare to be transported to the Arkansas wilderness with Sad Daddy and their third upcoming release Way Up In The Hills which will premiere on January 28th 2022. Sad Daddy is an Americana supergroup composed of Brian Martin on the acoustic guitar, Joe Sundell on the banjo, Rebecca Patek playing the fiddle, and Melissa Carper on upright bass. The four band members rendezvoused during the stillness of 2020 to record 14 original songs at Brian Martin’s cabin in Greers Ferry Arkansas with was captured by recording engineer Jordan Trotter. The 14 songs paint a picture of the four pickers joined in a circle performing songs that beckon the traveler back to their country home in the hills and celebrate simple and sustainable living. This collection of songs is also a response to the turbulent times of 2020 and lets the listener in on the musician’s retreat, in a sense waiting for the smoke to clear.
The opening track Arkansas Bound sets the stage charmingly. It tells the tale of “Leaving this city” and heading for the hills of Arkansas answering the call of the hollers and the trees and giving in to experience a quiet chapter of life. I enjoyed the simplicity of the song beginning with Patek’s earthy fiddle… letting out an old-time melody making way for Carper’s lonesome vocals to welcome the listeners on the journey. The tune builds with the repetition of the old-time melody and has some delightfully gritty textures throughout the repeated motif.
My first favorite tune on the album is Bacon. Unless your diet is plant-based chances are you recognize that bacon is the star of the breakfast table. Brian Martin affectionately shares his enthusiasm for the southern delicacy in a way that will inspire many to whip out their cast iron skillets and evoke the magical smells of the bacon frying, and the ever-so-satisfying sizzle sounds. Joe Sundell and Rebecca Patek treat us to a lovely two-part melodic banjo and fiddle solo, which ties the tune together in a delightful downhome fashion. One of the best features of this song was the extra-long bacon sizzle at the end of the track. In a world of beautiful sounds, the sizzle of bacon in a hot skillet is definitely near the top of the list.
Rebecca Patek’s Live Real Lean highlights the joy in slow, intentional, living and the positive energy that comes from playing acoustic music, cooking up some rice and beans and embracing the escape into a sleepier place. I enjoyed the interplay between the banjo and the fiddle throughout the album but the two shine particularly bright on this song.
Hanging Them Clothes on the Line is one of the more unique songs on the track. The neo-work song begins with a combination of ham boning (rhythmic slapping of the human body) and multipart acapella singing. It opens with a throaty yet sweet “Hanging them clothes on the line….listening to the birdies chime “sung solo by Carper. When I listened to this tune I imagined sitting in the center of the circle of singers absorbing the gorgeous harmonies and feeling the rhythm in my bones. The moment Carper was joined in harmony gave me the chills. It was compelling to hear what a powerful, soulful sound four people could make with only using their voices and creating rhythms on their bodies.
For all the Jug -Band fans out there you’ll love Make It Roll. This is an upbeat tune that reminds me of The Jim Kweskin Jug- Band and also Pokey La Farge. If I had to choose one word to describe this song the word would be fun. I’d be amazed if anyone can listen to this song and not feel the urge to dance or at very least tap their foot. Again we hear crisp sawing on the fiddle and the bright banjo ringing. The two are the perfect combination and go together as perfectly as biscuits and gravy on a cold Sunday morning.
The title track Up In the Hills is sure to hit home for all of us who remember the isolation that came with the international lockdowns early on during the Covid-19 pandemic. Carper warmly yet eerily conveys her experience through this song, “Listening to the birds and talking to the trees” and coming to the realization that she doesn’t miss city life “Running round in circles just to pay my bills” The track is relatable storytelling at its finest backed by dark and tense instrumentation that inspire memories of the early days of the pandemic. I especially enjoyed the feeling of being along for the ride and escaping to the safety of a primitive retreat.
Way Up In the Hills is a marvelous collection of homegrown goodness that encompasses the spirit of the hills while showcasing avid musicianship and songwriting. This album is a great pick for those who might be settling into their retreat whether it be nestled in the mountains or an untouched corner of your backyard. I enjoyed the songs more and more with each listen and I believe those who enjoy Old-time music, jug-band, and country blues will be enthralled with Sad Daddy’s latest work. Recently the quartet released a single from the album entitled Charlie Pickle which is a lively catchy tune that will bring you right back to the heart of the hills and the hollers. The single is available to stream on most streaming platforms. The full release will premier on January 28th, 2022 on streaming platforms click here to pre-save the release.