With plenty of ’70s flavor and a whole vanload of grooves, Saskatoon’s the Sheepdogs solidify their presence with their eponymous fourth album. The September 2012 release is soaked in the boogie-woogie side of rock and roll, with the band unabashedly laying out some seriously thick grooves and killer rock riffs.
The Sheepdogs have been building their rock cred steadily for years now, but it took 2010’s Learn and Burn to really nail down a presence in the industry. They wound up scooping a trio of 2012 Juno awards, including New Group of the Year, and caught the attention of comparable acts like the Black Keys.
The accolades took shape and the Sheepdogs matured (a little), with Patrick Carney of the aforementioned Black Keys serving as producer of the new record. He, along with Austin Scaggs, got down to business and The Sheepdogs was laid out in a pressure-filled two-and-a-half week session at Nashville’s Haptown Studios.
“I think different albums have processes and this was a different experience for us, but that’s part of what makes it interesting,” says vocalist and guitarist Ewan Currie. “We wanted to just go with the flow and make the album that represented where we are now. We were rushed into the studio, but you can let that pressure destroy you or you can let that pressure galvanize you, and I think it was a positive force. Having that tight time structure, buckling down and doing music all day every day was great.”
There’s no question that gravity benefitted the band in a big way, as the rush serves as a bit of a time capsule. The Sheepdogs is not only an album, it’s a moment in time — glazed with Saskatchewan-prairie-meets-Nashville-city-lights essence and a whole lot of guitar thrills.
The no-frills approach lends itself to the Sheepdogs’ style, whether with the rustic “Laid Back” or the blues crush of “The Way It Is.” As the band stretches out over various genres, it becomes clear as to why they’ve been sought out to hit the road with everyone from Kings of Leon to John Fogerty. Theirs is an enduring sound, one couched in everything pragmatic rock is all about.
Best of all, the Sheepdogs aren’t doing this ironically. There’s no winking, no sneering, no “look how hip we are” stares. The Sheepdogs is nothing less than clarity of form, burning through cuts like the roomy, tempo-shifting instrumental “Javelina!” and the slide guitar sanctuary that is “Sharp Sounds” with honesty and hunger.
Those looking for a trip back to a time when great records were nailed down in a few days and cheap booze fired the locomotives will dig The Sheepdogs. In a world where rock music is often contaminated with pretense and knowing glances, these Canadian kids are the real deal.
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