The deep American South.
Origin of some of the greatest classic rock of the century; everything ranging from Marshall Tucker Band to Lynyrd Skynyrd and Charlie Daniels – all twangy strum-savvy legends whose bluesy tales finally decorated the airwaves after being carried in their empty, lovelorn and tattered back pockets.
Not exactly the origin of too much musical genius. But, something relative about the endless plains and valleys managed to accomplish breeding the contemporary Canadian version of such righteous rock ‘n roll entertainment, better known as The Sheepdogs.
Similar to the old adage that an owner slowly begins to mimic their dog after years together – or maybe it’s the other way around – this scruffy foursome certainly look the part. The part being both country canine and free-spirited revivalist rockers.
Over a year and a half after the Canuck clan won Rolling Stone Magazine’s Cover Challenge – a contest auctioning off a spot on the coveted front page, record deal with Atlantic and subsequent airwave acclaim in return for voter’s approval of submitted tunes – the band is full leaps and bounds outside of Saskatchewan small gig territory. Their nearly immediate release Learn and Burn spread like prairie wildfire – with the olden-rock anthem “I Don’t Know” and it’s velvety, Ewan Currie-led harmonies winning hearts north and south of the border at first radio spin.
And last week, after a year of festival hopping, opening for some of their genre’s biggest acts and pressing songs in between, the ‘Dogs were let out last week – in the form of their scorching full-length major label debut.
And it really is stage-melting rock. Some people will argue that rock music has gone by the wayside, and it’s my opinion those people lack the open-mindedness to embrace new and more eclectic variations of the genre. But, oof – if you’re looking for that drive down the dusty road, cold cracked Budweiser, head to toe denim, pressed up against your sweaty love interest at the front of the stage straight-up kind of rock reincarnation, then you’ve got our home-grown boys, and producer Patrick Carney of the Black Keys, to thank for this one.
Similar to early embodiments of what so many of us view as “real rock” – the kind “they don’t make anymore” (again, a moot point – they do) – The Sheepdogs have achieved that gooey kind of 70s feel-good intimacy on this album. The kind that’s captured through an unmistakably perfect male vibrato, growling and shaking alongside the amp-baking electric guitar solos and swirling psychedelic keyboard. The kind that’s equal parts croons and riffs speaking to love lost, love gained, the ride and all of the bulls**t in between. The real rock stuff of real rock artists.
On “Never Gonna Get My Love,” a sliding George Harrison guitar wails away alongside marching band percussion while Electric Light Orchestra choral harmonies chirp from the background. Golden time-machine highlights that preach carelessness and idle, ramblin’ freedom come in the form of Allman Brothers-esque anthems “Alright OK” and a trippy sitar-laden “In My Mind”; pacified ditties that highlight Currie’s bellowing and milky Morrison-meets-Fogerty vocals. Possibly most single-ready is “Feeling Good” – a buzzing boogie so obviously influenced by Carney’s production team with a rhythmic addictiveness that will easily coax concert goers onto shoulders and women out of their shirts, whether by way of the breezy lyrics or plodding clap beat. And all of the above, plus extras and a fall tour line-up, will remind any listener that rock ‘n roll is alive, very well and proud to be Canadian.
I’ll be seeing The Sheepdogs this weekend at Echo Beach in Toronto, ON – tickets can be found here!