The Sheepdogs: Trial by rock ’n’ roll

by Gazette Reporter
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The best band you’ve never heard of come from Saskatchewan.

Saskatchewan is vast, and the Canadian prarie province is home to major cities like Saskatoon and the magnificently named Moose Jaw.

Straight outta Saskatoon have come the equally magnificently monikered Sheepdogs, who ventured forth and brought their brand of classic downhome rock ’n’ roll to the masses.

Building a sizeable fanbase in their home country, and winning the Canadian equivalent of the Grammys for Best Rock Album, Best New Group and Single of the Year last year, The Sheepdogs are on a roll.

Somewhat appropriately, they couldn’t be there on the night to collect their honours, given that they were on tour with one of their undoubted heroes and major influences, John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival.

That success came on the back of their previous independent release, Learn And Burn, which saw a fine set of songs being honed to rocking perfection and the band’s clear love and respect for The Beatles on display throughout.

Their self-titled release is the band’s major label debut on Atlantic records, home of such rock luminaries as Led Zeppelin, Cream and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, and considering their style and sound, there is no more appropriate home for these puppies.

Listening to this on your car’s sound system is like shutting the modern world outside and time-travelling back to the golden age of 70s radio, such is the pristine classic rock on offer here.

Opening with a Creedence-recalling (and unironically titled) Laid Back, this eponymous effort delivers a perfect encapsulation of the post-60s rock scene, with a twist of psych and a bowlful of sweet melodies. It doesn’t linger or meander into the realms of noodly eight-minute jams, it delivers just as much as it needs to, which leaves you wanting more.

Feeling Good has a huge fuzzy rolling vibe reminiscent of Black Keys’ Lonely Boy, and that is no small wonder, with the album produced by the Keys’ Patrick Carney.

Carney has clearly coralled the band to play to their undoubted strengths, and this continues throughout the record. The CSNY-esque Ewan’s Blues, with its harmonising vocal and bluesy stroll, is a mid-paced highlight, and the band’s capacity to slide effortlessly into other styles is demonstrated on tracks like Javelina (an acid-flecked jazz workout) and on the treble threat of Is Your Dream Worth Dying For?, How Late How Long and Sharp Sounds, where the band pull all the threads of their various influences together to create something fresh but very, very familiar.

They might not be hip, but they sure are groovy. The Sheepdogs deserve to be the soundtrack to your fleecy moments.

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