If you look at his life as of late, it has pretty much been a rock and roll fairytale for Sadler Vaden. The North Carolina-born, South Carolina-raised musician cut his musical teeth in Charleston gigging with local groups like The Working Title before forming the beloved and much-missed rock trio Leslie. Just as that band was really getting revved up, Vaden was offered a dream gig; playing lead guitar for Kevn Kinney’s legendary Georgia rock outfit Drivin N Cryin. I mean, it just couldn’t get better than that, right? Wrong. Soon none other than former Drive-By Truckers member Jason Isbell came a courting, and before you knew it Vaden was officially a part of Isbell’s band The 400 Unit. Even with all of that moving and shaking Vaden has managed to keep making his own solo albums, the latest of which simply bears his name as the title.
Vaden has some stellar guitar chops that belie his young age, and while listening to rock radio while growing up he was obviously listening intently and taking notes. Vaden’s eponymous new release is a wonderfully unabashed romp with the ghosts of rock’s bygone era. Even the CD’s cover art, Vaden’s face in front of a groovy cosmic background, features distress marks to make the front of the album look like a well-used LP cover that has been slid into and out of a vast record collection over time. The album’s leadoff track, “You Can’t Have It All,” sounds like the product of many late night beer-soaked listenings to old Joe Walsh albums. “Get You High” and “Nobody Gives a Damn About Songs Anymore” echo feel good hits by Thin Lizzy and the Eagles, while “Into the Woods” is the best song that Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers never wrote. I honestly believe that had Vaden been born three or four decades earlier he’d have been an MTV and AOR radio star in the 1980s. Other notable tracks, on an album full of catchy ones, include “Cherry Blossom Wine” and the ridiculously catchy “End of the Road,” which can only truly be appreciated live, but is captured here pretty effectively.
Even if Vaden’s rock and roll wanderlust finally ceases and he spends the rest of his days with Isbell (and really, that’s a pretty sweet place to end up), it’s nice to see that Sadler Vaden will likely never tire of seeing what he can do on his own during his down time from his day job. This is a guy who has taken Neil Young’s mantra of “Keep On Rockin’ in the Free World” and run with it.
Recommended if you like: anything good with a prominent guitar riff you just heard on the local classic rock radio station a few minutes ago.
Devin Grant’s love for live music began back in 1982 when he won tickets off a local radio station to see Joan Jett and The Blackhearts. Had that show been anything other than epic, he would probably be an accountant, or perhaps a podiatrist. Since that fateful day Devin has attended hundreds of live shows. Once he figured out that he could get free tickets in return for writing about the shows, music journalism seemed a logical choice. Devin’s work has appeared in Charleston’s Free Times, The Charleston City Paper, The Post & Courier, Charleston Magazine, and No Depression. He has interviewed the likes of Mike Watt, The Rev. Al Green, Tori Amos, Mike Doughty, Warren Haynes, and Loretta Lynn. He has photographed hundreds of bands, including The Police, My Morning Jacket, The Eagles, Willie Nelson, White Stripes, and Taylor Swift.