DO YOU KNOW YOUR FOOD?

FOOD

A lot of what Americans eat comes from other countries, and as the number of food recalls rises, experts urge consumers to get smarter about where their food originates.

By Ben Larrison, CTW Features

If you are what you eat, you’re probably getting a little less American every day.

The United States’ food supply has become increasingly foreign over the past fifteen years.  A wide variety of fruits and vegetables are now available year-round, long after their seasons have passed locally.  Bananas from Ecuador, beans from Mexico, and apples from New Zealand are waiting for you comfortably in the aisles of your neighborhood grocery store.  Seafood is another popular import: Shrimp, for one, comes in from Thailand, China, and Indonesia, and Chinese catfish and eel are prone to show up on your dinner plate.

Chances are your morning beverage also comes from overseas; there are Colombian coffee and Indian tea, and the sugar you add may be from the Caribbean.  More of a juice person?  We’ve got apple juice from Argentina and orange juice from Brazil.

Even the oils you cook your food in come from outside the United States: Canola oil is Canadian, and olive oil is from countries like Spain, Greece, and, of course, Italy.

“We are importing an enormous number of food products,” says Patrick Woodall, a policy analyst for New York-based Food & Water Watch.

From 1983 to 1985, imports amounted for just nine percent of fresh vegetable consumption in the United States.  By 2003 to 2005, they were up to 16 percent, and that number is on the rise.  Many of the products we import are things that can be grown in the U.S.  More than one third of the tomatoes we consume are grown overseas, as are nearly half of the cucumbers, one-third of melons like honeydew and cantaloupe, and more than half of the garlic.

This boom in food imports has brought the luxury of a wider variety of healthy options no matter the month.  But with these benefits come hazards.

“The risks obviously are the possibility of picking up some exotic food-borne disease, getting sick, and in some cases dying,” says Larry Busch, director of the Institute for Food and Agricultural Standards at Michigan State University, East Lansing.

Part of the issue is the FDA and USDA’s inability to monitor the incredible amount of food brought into the country every day on ships and planes.  According to Woodall, less than two percent of the edible goods are actually inspected, focusing mostly on items that have a higher risk for contamination, such as seafood and produce.  Inspectors have found veggies that are rotten, filthy, and contaminated with pesticide or salmonella.  Fish, in particular, has presented problems, with the U.S. importing 80% of its seafood.  Mike Doyle, director of the Center of Food Safety at the University of Georgia, Athens, says that inspectors have found “an awful lot” of salmonella in shrimp – up to 8-10% by some estimates – due to the use of chicken manure as a fertilizer at some aquaculture plants.  Most tuna is imported and has at times been found to contain high mercury levels.  And just last year, the government placed a temporary ban on farm-raised shrimp, catfish, and eel from China because they had been treated with harmful veterinary medicine and antibiotics.

“We import about a billion pounds of fish per year, and we look at about two percent of that,” Woodall says.  “And what that means is that 980 million pounds of fish are being imported without even a cursory glance from the FDA.”

Seventy-six million Americans get some sort of food-borne illness every year, though it is unknown how many of those are the result of foreign-grown and raised food.  The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which monitors food illness rates in the United States, “hasn’t really been trying to differentiate between whether it’s foreign foods and domestic foods that are causing problems,” Doyle says.  Experts say the government’s ability to properly inspect food coming into the country has declined because of budget cuts, while at the same time the number of imports has increased.  “I think it’s probably slightly true (that imported food has more safety issues than food from the U.S.)” Busch says.  “On the one hand, the sheer volume of imported food has been growing at an incredible rate, and the other thing to remember here is the safer the food supply gets, the more these incidents are going to show up in the media.”

A few years ago, Chinese imports came under greater scrutiny after four dogs and ten cats died due to tainted pet food, leading to massive recalls.  This skepticism soon spread to food, and a study in Consumer Reports magazine found that 92% of Americans want to know their food’s country of origin.  The 2002 Farm Bill included the stipulation that fish, beef, lamb, pork, fruits, and vegetables had to be identified by their country of origin.  But to date, only seafood has been subject to the program known as COOL (country of origin labeling.)  Busch says that while there may be public interest, “I’m not sure knowing where it’s from is a good proxy for knowing whether or not it’s safe.”

As far as safety is concerned, Busch says that most people automatically assume the food they buy from the supermarket is going to be safe.  And, he adds, “I would say that on the whole, people tend to be more concerned about the nutritional value of their food than where it comes from.” Some experts recommend buying locally at places like farmers’ markets, as that food is subject to strict domestic food regulation that does not necessarily apply to imports.

Here are some ways to eat well and stay safe:

Try to keep tabs on what foods are presenting problems and where the tainted goods have been coming from, be they domestic or foreign.  “We do know that based on the FDA’s surveillance data, food from certain countries in particular tends to have a much higher occurrence of defects,” says Mike Doyle, director of the Center of Food Safety at the University of Georgia.  India, Mexico, and China are currently among the leading countries for rejected food shipments.

To get the latest updates on import refusals, go to www.fda.gov/ora, click on “Import Program,” and then select “Import Refusal Report.”  From there, you can search by product or country for all rejected goods, including food.

Proper preparation and careful cooking of food can help to reduce the chance of contracting a food borne illness.  “Many of the microbiological issues can be solved by good handling aspects,” Doyle says.  “If you properly cook foods, you will kill shigella and you will kill salmonella.”

Don’t be afraid to buy foreign foods.  The inspections and regulatory practices in the product’s country of origin tend to get the job done.  “For the most part, (the system) works extremely well,” says Larry Busch, director of the Institute for Food and Agricultural Standards at Michigan State University.

TAKE IT EASY!

EaglesConcertCommittee (9)The Wayne Memorial Hospital Auxiliary has the perfect outing for you.

Don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy! Sound familiar?  It’s a line from the Eagles’ song, Take it Easy.  And thanks to the Wayne Memorial Hospital Auxiliary, one of the most popular Eagles tribute bands in the country, Best of the Eagles, is coming to the Woodloch Pines Nightclub on Sunday, September 23rd.  Best of the Eagles or BOTE is expected to perform lots of Eagles hits such as Hotel California, Take It To the Limit and New Kid in Town.

The hospital auxiliary has been offering tribute band concerts for six consecutive years, starting with Terri Dixon performing Patsy Cline songs back in 2013.  An overflow crowd that year led the auxiliary to move to a bigger venue and more tribute band concerts. “We had a good thing going, and we knew it,” said Martha Wilson, who, along with Diane Fox,  is coordinating this year’s event.  “Talented tribute bands are as close to the ‘real thing’ as you can get, and we bring them close to home.”

band-composite-04-logo            BOTE guitarist/vocalist Joe Vadala formed the band in 2012 with five other professional musicians who brought a wealth of experience with them—and a passion for Eagles music. Bass player/vocalist Vinny Daniele has performed with Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, Carly Simon and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones. Other BOTE band members have played with Emmylou Harris, Laura Branigan, Art Garfunkel and more.

“BOTE isn’t just a copycat band or impersonator act,” said co-coordinator Diane Fox, “but rather a group of excellent musicians who authentically re-create the songs, the music and the magic of one of America’s greatest rock bands.”

The Wayne Memorial Hospital Auxiliary has been supporting the hospital since the first patient crossed through its doors almost 100 years ago.  Through well-organized fundraising operations, such as the tribute concerts, the annual Mistletoe Ball, uniform sales, the Other Shops in Honesdale and Hawley and a large yearly bake sale, the auxiliary has helped the hospital advance on many fronts. Auxiliary funds helped purchase a mammography van, improve cardiac care with updated equipment and build a helipad to supports its successful application for Level IV Trauma certification. When the hospital’s new patient tower is finished in mid-2019, it will have a state-of-the-art nurse call system that the auxiliary helped the hospital acquire.

“Our goal is always to enhance the hospital’s ability to provide the best care for the community,” said Wilson, who adds that this coming year the auxiliary will focus on ways to help with physician recruitment.

The BOTE concert, enhanced by Woodloch’s acoustics and sound system, promises to be especially fun for Eagles fans. “Make Sunday September 23rd ‘one of these nights’ for yourself and bring along some friends,”  Fox said enthusiastically. “You’ll leave with a ‘peaceful easy feeling’; I can guarantee that!”

The $40 tickets may be purchased by calling Katy 570-674-6427 or Joan 570-226-9750. Doors open at 3 pm. Open seating and cash bar.

A FAMILY AFFAIR: FUN FOR ALL AGES

WLFPAGEAug18

Wally Lake Fest: August 24-26, 2018

Wally Lake Fest is three days of fun, sun, sand and water on beautiful Lake Wallenpaupack and the surrounding region. From August 24th through the 26th, people of all ages attend the weekend-long event celebrating the third largest man-made lake in the state and all its 52 miles of shoreline has to offer.

The action packed festival gives people the opportunity to have fun out on the water and enjoy themselves on dry land.  Wally Lake Fest is the perfect way to spend the last summer weekend together as a family before back to school and the Labor Day holiday. Who says summer can’t last just a little bit longer? On Lake Wally, it can!

This August marks the ninth year, and it promises to be bigger and better than ever. The party gets started on Friday with a variety of live music at the local restaurants and pubs as well as a comedic play at the local playhouse. The live entertainment continues throughout the weekend.

The thrilling festival continues with fanfare on Saturday and Sunday. Some of the exciting activities planned include an open market fair, a motorcycle ride, a bike ride, kayak and standup paddleboard demos, various artisan and craft fairs, a beer tasting, live music on a floating stage, a boat, watercraft and outdoor show, free tastings of local cheeses, train rides, sailboat rides, a sailboat regatta race, a kids’ activity zone complete with face painting, bounce houses and more, a car cruise, plenty of shopping and much more.

Wally Lake Fest is a non-stop adventure in the Lake Region with a plethora of activities for the young and young at heart. Gather the family and spend the weekend on Lake Wallenpaupack, whether you live locally or are visiting the scenic area for the day or the entire weekend!

To make it possible for people to get the most out of their Wally Lake Fest experience, multiple free shuttle buses will run throughout the weekend, making a variety of stops. On Saturday, FREE shuttle buses will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Sunday, buses run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Wally Lake Fest is proudly hosted by the Downtown Hawley Partnership and presented by Lighthouse Harbor Marina and Silver Birches.

For more information, pick up a Wally Lake Fest brochure available at the Lake Wallenpaupack Visitors’ Center and other area businesses. The brochure lists the complete schedule of events for the entire weekend. Additional details and daily updates are posted on www.wallylakefest.com, and the Facebook page, www.facebook.com/wallylakefest.

HOT GOOD STUFF THIS SUMMER

HotTitleJuly18-optAudubon Art & Craft Festival

AudubonLogo-optRegarded as the premier wildlife art and craft event in the Pocono Mountains, the Audubon Wildlife Art & Craft Festival is an educational, fun-filled opportunity for all ages to learn about, and experience firsthand, many of nature’s mysteries.

The 2018 NEPA Wildlife Art & Craft Festival will feature continuous presentations of live animals by some of the top wildlife experts in the Northeast. These animals can be seen up close and in a way few people ever get to see. How they live, their habits, what they eat, and why they are a lot more afraid of people than people are of them will be explained in easy to understand detail that you and your children will never forget.  A large variety of raptors and birds of prey, snakes, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals will be our guests for the public to experience first-hand, with the help of our visiting experts.

Over 80 of the nation’s finest wildlife and nature artists and craftsmen will be exhibiting, as well as selling their work. Photography, acrylic and oil painting, serigraphy, and watercolor will all be displayed. Handmade craftswork, inspired by nature or wildlife, will be at the two day festival.  Jewelry, clothing, pottery, woodcarving, quilting, metalwork, leatherwork and furniture are just some of the many crafts that will be exhibited and for sale. Many of these artists and craftsmen are from our region and include the best artists and craftsmen in the nation.

The Pocono Wildlife Rehabilitation Center will be present the entire two days of the event. The Pocono Snake and Animal Farm will be presenting “Wildlife Adventures” at 1 PM and 3 PM on Saturday, and Rizzo’s Wildlife World, will be giving live educational performances at 1 PM and 3 PM on Sunday.

Sponsored by the Northeast Pennsylvania Audubon Society, the festival will have free conservation literature and a wide variety of environmental, conservation, and wildlife experts on hand. There will be door prizes, nature center exhibits, activities just for kids, and plenty of  delicious home-made food!

Funds raised at the festival help provide environmental scholarships to students in the area, conservation programs to schools and community organizations, nature books to schools and libraries, grants to local and international environmental groups and maintain two wetlands in Wayne County.

Celebrating its 34th year, the Audubon Festival will be held July 21st and 22nd in Hawley, Pennsylvania. Don’t forget, this is an indoor air-conditioned event with plenty of free parking!

Steampunk Honesdale

Steampunk Logo-optThe Greater Honesdale Partnership and all of Honesdale’s wonderful merchants invite you to attend Steampunk Honesdale on Friday and Saturday, July 21 and 22 from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., sponsored by Wayne Bank, Complete Health Dentistry of NEPA and Paulie’s Hot Dogs with support from Wayne County Tourism and The Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau.

Get ready for this fun weekend by signing up for Steampunk Jewelry Making at Bloom, being offered July 10 and 11 at 6:00 p.m. Create a pair of Steampunk earrings and a necklace. For more information, call 201-914-1414. Or, purchase a Steampunk Honesdale T-shirt! To order, please email the GHP at ghp@visithonesdalepa.com.

Featuring Honesdale’s historic Sidewalk Sales, Main Street will be filled with all kinds of great merchandise offered by its fine local stores, area vendors, Steampunk artists and vendors, and area non-profits. You are all invited to come and explore all that Honesdale has to share.

Come to Honesdale; browse through the great variety of stores, learn about the wonderful local history and services, and dine at one of the many area restaurants, cafes or taverns. Honesdale has great shops on every block, so wear your walking shoes. For a full list, stop by one of the shops in Honesdale and pick up our brochure, complete with a colorful map, list of events and historic walking tour, or go to visithonesdalepa.com.

We invite you to visit the past and enjoy the great exhibits at the newly expanded and remodeled Wayne County Historical Society, located at 810 Main Street. The Historical Society is celebrating their 101st  anniversary this year. Enjoy the great exhibits – 100 Objects of Wayne County, Moving Energy, Faces in Clay and the glass exhibit. And bring the kids to enjoy the interactive Children’s History Lag. The Museum will be open from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Steam returns to Honesdale with rail excursions aboard a real steam locomotive on the Stourbridge Line Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Please go to www.stourbridgeline.net or call 570-470-2697 for ticket information and departure times.

Enjoy the Wayne County Farmers Market, on Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., (located in front of Dave’s Food Town, 220 Willow Ave.) featuring many items made and grown locally.

While Honesdale is an extremely accessible town, scooter rentals will be available at Stephens Pharmacy/NE Med-Equip, located at 1101 Main Street on Saturday, July 21, for your shopping convenience. Full day rentals are available for $25.00 per day and hourly rentals begin at $15.00 for the first two hours with $5.00 for each additional hour up to $25.00. Please call 570-253-7700 for additional information.

There will be many fun activities during this new event! Kick off the weekend with the Steampunk Ball at the Cooperage, Friday night beginning at 7:30 p.m. with music by the Whisky Killers and a cash bar. Costumes are encouraged! Visit the Library at 1406 Main Street for their Blind Book Sale, Friday, July 20 from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Get your photo taken by Circa Photo in front of the Silsby Steamer under the Pavilion. Take in the Steampunk art exhibit in the courtyard of The Cooperage, 1030 Main Street, or enter the Steampunk Costume Contest at Black & Brass all three days. Plan on attending the Author Fest on Saturday beginning at 10:00 a.m. held at The Cooperage. There will be plenty to do for young and old. Visit the Tarot Card reader in front of Turano Insurance and Financial and see what your future has in store for you. Top off the event by enjoying the Steampunk Film Festival, beginning at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday at Loose Leaf Pages. And make sure to purchase your Coal Drop raffle ticket for your chance to win one of five cash prizes! Tickets are available at area merchants and will be on sale at the GHP tent all day Saturday, and up until 2:00 p.m. on Sunday. Steampunk Honesdale T-shirts and window decals will also be sold at the tent.

Many more events are in the works! Stay tuned for details. Go to VisitHonesdalePa.com often for more updates.

With so much to do and see, why go anywhere else! We hope to see you at Steampunk Honesdale!

 

MuckStock

Muck_Stock_Logo_Color_Shirt-optCalling all WEEKEND WARRIORS, CROSSFITTERS, BOOTCAMPERS, GYM GOERS AND THOSE THAT JUST LIKE PLAYING HARD IN THE MUD.

TEAMS FORMING NOW!!!

Think You’re One Tough Mucker? Muckstock 2018 is Bigger and Better!

THE AREA’S HOTTEST NEW RACE!!!

SUNDAY, AUGUST 19TH

NEW LOCATION:

TOMMY GUN WAREHOUSE in GREELY, PA

REGISTRATION IS OPEN!

www.athlinks.com/event/muckstock-2018-203075

COMPLETE DETAILS:

VETSTOCKAMERICA.COM/MUCKSTOCK

Registration $75 • Day of Race Registration $100

Be A Tough Mucker! Get your muck on for the 2nd Annual MuckStock 5K Race on Sunday, Aug. 19th. MuckStock Obstacle Course Race (OCR) will sorely test your muckin’ mettle as you face multiple spirit, strength and stamina obstacles strategically placed throughout muddy terrain. New this year, Paint Ball Obstacle!

AGE: 13 or older: Must have valid Photo I.D and waiver. Children 13-15 must have parent or guardian present to verify age and waiver. Children 12 and under participating in the Kidz Race must have parent or guardian present at all times and wavier.

RACE KIT: Shirt, Bib, Finishing Metal, Finishing snack, Free After Party.

RACE BIB: You’ll get a bib (race number) that you must wear on the FRONT of your body (shirt or shorts). The bib serves two purposes: (1) It lets our security know that you’re a paid runner; (2) Items at the bag check are organized by bib number, so you must have it in order to retrieve your bags. We do not keep records of who gets which bib, so be sure to remember your number!

T-SHIRT: You’ll be given whatever size shirt you requested when you registered. There are no women’s sizes. T-Shirts are unisex style and are true to size.

BAG CHECK: DO NOT BRING the following items with you onto the course: wedding rings or other expensive jewelry, sunglasses, your only pair of prescription glasses, your wallet, your car keys, your cell phone, or anything else you don’t want to lose/destroy. Leave belongings with a friend, return them to your car, or check them at our free bag check located at the BAG CHECK TENT. Be advised that Vetstock, LLC, Vetstock America, Muckstock or any other affiliates of Vetstock, if any, assumes no liability for damage to or loss of any items placed in a bag check.

PACK YOUR BAG: Be sure to bring a towel, a change of clothes (including shoes or flip flops), sunscreen, water, a plastic bag to put your muddy clothes in, a folding chair or blanket to sit on, and, if you want to skip the rinse-off lines, a couple of gallons of water to leave in your car, they’ll heat up throughout the day giving you a nice warm rinse while everyone else shivers from the supplied water! Coolers aren’t allowed into the event.

PARKING: $5 per vehicle. Cash only. Shuttle vehicle may be available.

TEAMS: Allowed. Individual registration for each member.

WAVES: Start at 8:30 am. Up to 75 racers per group. Waves go out every 15 mins.

 

2017 MUCKSTOCK RACE PHOTOS ON FACEBOOK: MUCKSTOCK:A VETSTOCK VETERAN FUNDRAISER

Proceeds to benefit FOLDS OF HONOR (www.foldsofhonor.org) and other local Veterans organizations (New for 2018; Horses for Heros)

A VETSTOCK EVENT: EMAIL: VetstockAmerica@gmail.com    A 501(C)(3) NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION –  46-2563883

Scranton Jazz Festival

ScrantonJazzlogo-optFormer New York Yankee great Bernie Williams and the Bernie Williams Collective, Delfeayo Marsalis, a world class trombonist and member of the legendary Marsalis Family, and the multi Grammy nominated band Special EFX will be the headliners for the 14th Annual Scranton Jazz Festival on August 3rd, 4th and 5th, 2018 at the Radisson Hotel in Downtown Scranton.

Bernie Williams is a four time World Series Champion with the Yankees.  Following his storied career in baseball, Williams has spent many years playing and studying the jazz guitar.  In 2009, his album, “Moving Forward”, was nominated for a Latin Grammy.  The Bernie Williams Collective will headline the lineup for Saturday, August 4, 2018.

An exceptional trombonist, Delfeayo Marsalis was named one of the best, most imaginative and musical trombonists of his generation by the San Francisco Examiner.  He is the youngest brother of multi Grammy Award winners Branford and Wynton Marsalis. Delfeayo will be the guest artist playing with the 16 piece Big Band on Sunday, August 5, 2018.

Kicking off the festival on Friday, August 3, 2018, Special EFX will be celebrating 35 years in the jazz music industry.  With over twenty six releases to their name, Special EFX features some of the biggest names in contemporary jazz.  Led by three time Emmy Award winner Cheili Minucci on jazz guitar, the band also features multi award winning and Grammy nominees, Eric Marienthal sax, Regina Carter violin, Lao Tizer keyboards, Jerry Brooks bass and Joel Rosenblatt drums.

Tickets range from $20.00 – $40.00 and will be on sale May, 2018.  For further information please go to www.ScrantonJazzFestival.org or call 570.575.5282.

Wally Lake Fest

WLFLogo18-optThis year marks Wally Lake Fest’s ninth year and it’s widely known as the biggest festival celebrating the Big Lake and the tail end of the summer season.

Residents and visitors flock to the shoreline and glistening waters to participate in the many scheduled water activities and also have a blast on dry land.

Be sure to check back next month for a feature article on all Wally Lake Fest has to offer this year!

Milford Garden Club’s Secret Garden Tour

Secretgarden_tour_ photo-optThe Milford Garden Club’s 26th annual Town and Country Secret Garden Tour will take place on Saturday, July 14th, between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Gardeners and non-gardeners alike eagerly await this self-guided tour each summer which is held rain or shine! Locations of the gardens are a “secret” until the day of the tour.

ADVANCE TICKET PRICE is $15.00, available to purchase at The Willow Store, 317 Broad Street in Milford, or at The Artisan Exchange, 219 Broad Street in Milford. You can order tickets in advance by calling Helga (570-409-6027.) Send check by July 7th, to Milford Garden Club, P.O. Box 764, Milford, PA 18337.

TICKETS WILL BE AVAILABLE THE DAY OF THE TOUR from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at Remembrance Place, corner of West Ann Street and Elderberry Alley or at The Rotary Circle/Milford Community House, Broad Street (by the traffic light in town.) TICKET PRICE DAY OF TOUR IS $20.00 (children under 12 are welcome free!)

HEADLINER SET FOR HONESDALE ROOTS & RHYTHM MUSIC & ARTS FESTIVAL – JUNE 16th

ROOTS SadiesJune18The cover of The Sadies’ new album is a powerful image of the northern lights made by photographer David Kilabuk in Pangnirtung, Nunavut, a sight few of us will ever get to behold with our own eyes. Yet the awe-inspiring natural beauty and mystery captured in the photo are an ideal reflection of the music contained within.

No further embellishment seems necessary.

That’s been the essence of The Sadies’ story ever since the quartet comprised of singer/guitarists Dallas and Travis Good, bassist Sean Dean and drummer Mike Belitsky first exploded onto the North American scene 20 years ago. Back then there was still something called “alt-country,” a catchall for artists striving to carry on traditions with punk rock attitude. The Sadies certainly fit that description, but the breadth of their skills and musical knowledge was unparalleled since a group of fellow Torontonians left Ronnie Hawkins in the mid-‘60s to take a job backing Bob Dylan.

As the aurora borealis shifted with each album The Sadies made, the overall picture took on more defined colors. On top of that was the incredible list of collaborations—Neko Case, R&B legend Andre Williams, The Mekons’ Jon Langford, Jon Spencer, Robyn Hitchcock, John Doe, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Gord Downie, Neil Young—each one pushing The Sadies’ own sound into new, unmapped territory. Eventually, more time was taken in between albums as focus shifted to their original songwriting, and what was once the best live band in Canada became the best band in Canada, period.

Is it fair then to call Northern Passages their masterpiece? Yes, at least until the next album comes along. With “Riverview Fog” setting a haunting tone off the top, the sense of time collapsing is palpable. The psych-folk touches are no mere homage; this is the sound of our inscrutable world, and how we manage to survive in it. The song began as a letter to their friend Rick White, whose contributions, both musical and visual, have played a huge role in The Sadies’ story. Although White wasn’t involved with Northern Passages, embedded within “Riverview Fog” is hope that White will return to the fold.

Conversely, other friendships are on display, specifically the track “It’s Easy (Like Walking),” sung by Kurt Vile who became a convert after touring in support of The Sadies years ago. Without a second thought, he laid down his vocal part in the midst of his own grueling tour schedule. It’s one of the album’s standouts to be sure, but resides in the shadow of Northern Passage’s centrepiece, “The Elements Song.” Perhaps never before has everything The Sadies do best been harnessed in the span of five minutes. And perhaps fittingly, it was the starting point for Northern Passages when the band convened at the home of Dallas and Travis’ parents north of Toronto to record throughout the winter of 2015, with Dallas once again handling production duties.

“That was the first song I wrote for this album, and it was completely an extension of our last record, Internal Sounds,” Dallas Good says. “It took the longest to write and took the long-est to record, so in a way it gave the record this daunting feeling.”

However, Dallas is quick to note that Northern Passages contains several humourous moments, albeit of the extremely dark variety he’s known for. One is the album’s most overt “country” song, “God Bless The Infidels,” a scathing takedown of religious hypocrisy perfectly suited to our current social climate. Although Dallas has never proclaimed any political allegiances in his work, there are times like now when reality checks such as this are absolutely necessary.

As Dallas has found his songwriting voice over the last several albums, so too has Travis on Northern Passages. That’s evident on the tracks “Through Strange Eyes,” “Questions I Never Asked” and “As Above, So Below,” some of Travis’ strongest material yet. “I always want to hear Travis perform songs that show what he’s capable of,” Dallas says. “He did that all over this record, especially the three songs on which he sings lead.”

The overall group mentality of huddling in a basement for several months, Big Pink-style, actually led to some parallels to the 2004 project The Unintended with Rick White and Blue Rodeo’s Greg Keelor. Northern Passages’ hazy instrumental “The Noise Museum” would have fit nicely alongside that record’s deep woods psychedelia, while closing track “The Good Years” (containing among other killer lines, “He haunted her before he was dead”), is a prime example of the “northern gothic” approach The Sadies have all but patented.

Despite the eclecticism at the heart of The Sadies’ sound, Northern Passages’ main strength is a cohesiveness that gives it a more consistent feel overall. Dallas credits this in part to recording with no time restrictions or distractions, and, significantly, by returning to the same space where he and Travis first started playing in bands. “We had nothing to lose by trying to make the record down there, and we weren’t sure if anything good would come out of it,” he says. “But removing any unfamiliar elements allowed us to focus a lot better. My parents’ basement turned out to be my favorite studio yet.”

Given all their associations and tireless touring regimen, it can seem at times as if The Sadies are everywhere, all the time. Yet they are a band that fans cling to like a closely guarded secret, with each new release fulfilling the promise to reach further, for all of our sakes, not just their own. With Northern Passages, the time has come to make room for more on this wild acid-folk-country-punk trip, and trust me, we’ll be better off because of it.

ROOTS SadiesJune18 R&R LOGO8.color(green)