It’s probably not evident here in the article, but the ladies clearly enjoy each others company, picking on and laughing with each other constantly. You can listen to the full interview on our podcast, Americana Music Profiles. I was fortunate to have all five together on the phone at the same time, and it was quite hilarious, and lot of fun to speak with them all together. – editor
It was a nearly unrehearsed performance about six years ago at the Station Inn in Nashville, TN, that brought six of Bluegrass music’s top female musicians together for what was to be a one-off performance. Little did they know it would lead to an ongoing stint in what has become a part-time super-group. Consisting of five-time IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year and Grammy Nominated, Dale Ann Bradley, along with veteran Nashville powerhouse singer, Tina Adair, fiddle player; Deanie Richardson (who’s worked with all kinds of artists like Patty Loveless, Vince Gill, and Bob Seger); hard-driving banjo player, Gena Britt (who’s played with Lou Reid and Carolina, Alan Bibey & Grasstowne and more); and Beth Lawrence who is a widely known and sought after free-lance acoustic bass player in Nashville.
They call themselves Sister Sadie, inspired by the Tony Rice song, “Little Sadie,” and the fact that they feel as though they are sisters. The chemistry was evident immediately and carried over on stage right away. The audience and the industry also thought so. It wasn’t long after the sold out show that they began getting calls for gigs. So they made it official.
The ladies credit Ann Sawyers, who worked at the Station Inn before passing away recently, for having the idea of putting something like this together for a long time. “She contacted Gena initially to get it set up, and it went from there,” Dale Ann told us recently. “We really weren’t planning anything further beyond this one appearance.” Gena said. “We just thought it would be fun, but didn’t have any deeper expectations. We all met at the Station Inn about five o’clock that evening to work up some songs because we really didn’t even know what we were going to do. From the first note we hit together we just looked around at each other – like okay, this is gonna be good.”
It Was Just Magical
“It was quite magical,” Dale Ann added. “It really was.” “And we still do that, every show. When we start to warm up, that first note, we all just look around at each other and agree, that’s good!” Although they decided that each member would remain in their own band, they have managed to tour quite often, and just recently released their second CD together. Whenever time allows, they meet up and perform, which is currently about a dozen or so times a year, and now a little more heavily while they promote the new recording project, simply called, Sister Sadie II, out on Pinecastle Records.
Making It Work
Navigating the busy schedules of each of the members of the group does offer its challenges. While each has other musical endeavors, several of them also have professional careers outside of music too. But as the group gained popularity they have upped their performance schedule to about 25 dates a year – a lot more than they originally anticipated. “We’ve been really fortunate and blessed,” Deanie said. “That people have been reaching out to us and wanting to hire us. We knew we’d never be able to go much over those 25 dates a year but we wanted to try to reach all the different regions in the US, and we were able to do that last year.”
When I asked them how they worked out connecting for rehearsals and band meetings, and the like, after the brief silence, I was met with a chorus of laughter. “Usually right before we go on stage or the record button is pushed … this last record we did, most of the songs we worked the day of,” Tina said. “We’re all running different directions, so when we do get together we try to accomplish as much as we can.”
Of course the reality is, the ladies are not strangers to each other. “We’ve all picked together for 25 years on and off,” Dale Ann said. “We’ve all played together in some capacity through the years, so we’re kind of locked in to knowing what the other person is going to do (musically) – I feel that from the other girls.”
“It’s unlike any band I’ve played with. It feels great. We all anticipate what’s happening or what’s gonna happen on stage most of the time. It’s just one of those things that we don’t have to be together all the time, which makes it even more special when we do. A band is like any kind of relationship – if there’s chemistry there, it works. And there’s some serious chemistry amongst the five of us girls, and it just works. It just happens. We love it. We grin from the time we start playing to the time we stop, and that’s what keeps us coming back each time.”
Bringing The Music
The ladies rely on the songwriting skills of different members of the band to supply them with music for their CDs and shows. “Tina’s written several songs for the band,” Dale Ann commented. “Deanie and Gena have too, so I guess me and Beth need to get started and write one also,” she quipped.
But they are writing of course. Dale Ann has a new CD releasing in February with her own band. Deanie just released a new project, and Gena has a new CD coming out in April. It’s truly like an all-star event when the ladies get together, it just happens 25 times a year.
At press time, we learned Sister Sadie has been nominated for a Grammy award for Bluegrass Album of the Year:
Connect with the band:
Dale Ann Bradley
Written by Greg Tutwiler