New Release Tuesday: The Sheepdogs - “The Sheepdogs”

For Those Who Like: Lynyrd Skynyrd, Allman Brothers Band, The Black Keys

Light one up and settle back for a ride through the years with the pride of the prairies, Saskatoon’s The Sheepdogs, who have finally released their major label debut record. The hype surrounding their victory of Rolling Stone’s “Choose the Cover” contest last summer was pretty immense, but thankfully they have made good on the opportunity and delivered something worthy of the buzz.
 
While not straying far off from the sound of their first record Learn and Burn, this collection of songs isn’t just the same old Sheepdogs. Though the album’s opening notes again evoke the spirit of the Allman Brothers Band with harmonized guitar riffs, jangling piano and sweet Southern vocals, the songwriting comes off sounding a bit more modern this time around. While “Feeling Good” cops the vibe of Norman Greenbaum’s classic “Spirit in the Sky”, it’s done via the Black Keys signature guitar tone, which isn’t surprising considering they enlisted the Keys’ Patrick Carney to produce the album.
 
The ‘Dogs bring some straight up rockers too, with “The Way It Is” banging away and “How Late, How Long” pulling a serious Skynyrd vibe. Where they shine best still remains in their throwback vibe and quality guitar playing, with an affinity for strong vocals tying it all together like the best of the ‘60s and ‘70s classic rock era.
 
They also stretch out into more challenging and musically interesting territory on “Javelina!” with harmonized guitars layered over a complex 5/4 time signature that drops into a straight blues beat, then lays back into a deep shuffle groove for a few measures, before cutting back to a 5/4 guitar jam. This instrumental track could easily be mistaken for a cut from the Allman’s greatest hits with quick shifts and swirling stereo pans making this one of the strongest cuts on the record.
 
14 solid tracks make this a robust album perfectly suited for cutting across prairie roads with the windows rolled down. Stream it here for yourself and catch them rolling across the continent on tour over the next few months. Good old guitar rock is not yet dead, ladies and gentlemen. 

– Tyler Stewart

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