Sadler Vaden “Dad Rock”

Thirty Tigers, 2024

A surprise new album celebrating Father’s Day and fatherhood from a guitar great.

Dad Rock cover art - Sadler VadenIf you need to ask who Sadler Vaden is, then you have not been paying attention to the domination of Jason Isbell and his 400 Unit as the reigning superstars of the Americana music genre. And indeed that might be the case if you get your fill of Americana (or any other genre) from social media/streaming platforms, rather than from the hardware of real CDs where he is credited as the co-lead guitar foil to Jason Isbell, encouraging the band’s leader (and himself) to greater and greater performances. And after two decades of recording and live playing, Vaden has himself attained guitar hero status.

Vaden was born in Myrtle Beach North Carolina and spent his youth between North and South Carolina, forming his own band in his teens and joining Drivin’n’Cryin’ when he was 25, then producing that band’s series of EPs. Isbell recruited him just as his breakout album ‘Southeastern‘ was released in 2013, and he has been a mainstay of the band ever since, whilst at the same time producing and releasing two solo albums of his own, the self-titled debut in 2016 and the highly-regarded sophomore ‘Anybody Out There’ in 2020, and producing others for the likes of new star Morgan Wade.

And now, in 2024 he delivers a surprise brand new release, ‘Dad Rock’ (only 8 tracks, but almost full length, written during the time from his last album and since becoming a father ), released to celebrate Father’s Day weekend and particularly his recent fatherhood. He has two sons with his wife Candice and it is their cooing and giggling that kicks off the album on ‘Townsend’s Theme’, dedicated to his son  named after a Vaden guitar hero, Pete Townsend. Interestingly, for a self-confessed rock’n’roll nerd, this is a tender and rather beautiful instrumental track, although it does rock out during the middle part. The ‘Rock’ part of the album title is there in spades, just as in his previous outings, with plenty of influences that Vaden is not afraid to display, rather than play down. Most obvious is Tom Petty, both vocally and instrumentally (particularly on ‘Holes’), but there are a number of others. ‘Staying Alive‘ has all the hallmarks of a Thin Lizzy track, the aforementioned Pete Townsend is evident in places; and the George Harrison-inspired ‘I’ll Always Come Back’, a song to his boys when he has to tour for a long time, is a real highlight (and not surprisingly chosen as the profile track). It has a more country rock vibe than much of the rest, with Beatle-sounding vocals and a guitar solo straight out of the Harrison songbook –“I didn’t know I needed you You lit the way out of the blue  How long until you leave this house?  What will I do when you set out? I didn’t know I needed you  When you get lonely, And your heart is under attack  I’ll always come back”.

‘The New You‘ is the one other gentle vocal track and features guest (and father) Benmont Tench on some lovely piano, while Vaden’s voice sounds a bit like Marc Bolan.  Tench features again on the bluesier ‘The Rescuer‘ where he uses a range of keyboards, and the track is beefed up with some great horns. On only one track does Vaden give up lead guitar duties and that is on the lovely rocker, ‘Two Balloons’, that closes the album, where guest Elliot Easton of the Cars (also a father) takes charge. This song, written some years ago, is a tribute to his parents whose memory is served by a tattoo of two balloons on Vaden’s arm. “Two balloons, went up to the sky  Stay together for the rest of time  Never leave each others side  Red and Blue and intertwined”.

The other guest musicians are The Whigs’ Julian Dorio (drums) and Timothy Deaux (bass) then award-winning drummer Fred Eltringham and Dominic Davis (bass), each providing rock solid rhythm for half the songs.

Vaden is a great guitarist and, like Jason Isbell, never overstays his welcome on the solos, which are a perfect length and very melodic. He overlays his guitar playing with fine keyboards and it is no surprise that he is now very much in demand as a producer, as this album is beautifully produced by him. As a rocker, and influenced by other rockers, the Americana connections can be a bit tenuous, but there is no doubting his singer-songwriter sensibilities which allow him in to the ring. A fine addition to his oeuvre.


About FredArnold 60 Articles
Lifelong fan of predominantly US (and Canadian) country roots music. Previously an avid concert-goer before wives, kids and dogs got in the way- and although I still try to get to several, my preference for small independent venues often means standing, and that ain't too good for my ancient bones!! Still, a healthy and catholic music collection helps ease the pain
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Wonderful review about a great artist. The only disadvantage is, that there is no CD available. So I had to buy the download on Qobuz!