It’s been long enough now that you might not even know that The Sheepdogs (you might not even know The Sheepdogs, period) broke into the music industry by winning a Rolling Stone magazine contest to be the first unsigned band on the cover. But there they were on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” playing a crowd-written improvised song and touting their superior facial hair. However, unlike most commercial-backed musical acts, they’ve carved out a decent career for themselves since then
The contest and Rolling Stone’s marketing effort allowed The Sheepdogs’ major label debut to No. 1 in Canada and No. 23 in the United States. Their next two releases, 2015’s “Future Nostalgia” and this year’s “Changing Colours,” didn’t make U.S charts, but still reached No’s. 11 and 5, respectively, in Canada. Their third self-released album, “Let It Burn,” also peaked on the Canadian charts at 14. So they have harnessed the corporate inertia of a major conglomerate into a respectable following in North America.
The Sheepdogs are a band that generally likes to keep their guitar-driven blues rock ‘n’ roll in the pop format simple, but somehow they have made that interesting with “Changing Colours.”
The album has 18 tracks, which in the past would be about 9 tracks too long. But the album does change colors and sounds throughout the album – – there are some elements of jazz and Spanish guitar styles, though they generally stay within the classic rock purview.
“The Bailieboro Turnaround” is essentially an old time-ee boogie-woogie instrumental, and “Let It Roll” draws from the Hank Williams-era of country music – and that slide guitar sound is used throughout the album.
“The Big Nowhere” opens with a jazz-inspired riff that sounds like the intro to ’50’s noir flick and turns into an easygoing up-tempo rock ‘n’ roll jam with a wicked organ solo circa Garth Hudson of The Band. And ignoring the guitar and vocals, it is a song in the style of The Band.
“Cherries Jubilee” is a Southern rock instrumental Allman Brothers imitation, which despite sounding perhaps a little too close to The Allman Brothers, adds to the album’s overall aesthetic. Similarly, “Run Baby Run” sounds a little too close to CSNY. Which was also the case with “Feeling Good” and The Black Keys, from their previous album.
“I Got A Hole Where My Heart Should Be,” is one lower point of the album, and the song that sounds most like their previous work in the soft rock version of AC/DC groove they’ve carved out for themselves. While “Let It Roll” returns to the country rock, CSNY theme, and is the epitome of easygoing rock.
For What It Is
Lyrically, The Sheepdogs are about as good as you’d expect a band that got their break by winning a contest to be on the cover of Rolling Stone to be. So, just okay. “The Big Nowhere” is probably their best effort on the album. The band seems to be attempting to sing about something meaningful, but they don’t get beyond the surface. Like a lot of pop groups – – not that The Sheepdogs are a typical pop-group, but structurally they are making pop songs – – their lyrics are very general and rely too heavily on cliché. Like, “It must be Saturday night/And the feeling is right,” from “Saturday Night.” Anyone could write that. However, from a pop perspective, the lyrics are certainly at the higher end.
From a musical perspective, “Changing Colours” is probably superior to anything else The Sheepdogs have released. Despite some inconsistencies, the album mixes and draws from some interesting aspects of the classic rock lexicon without sounding like that cover band that plays every community event in your hometown.
Although the band manages to keep things interesting, there are a lot of catchy pop-rock tunes on the album, and most songs sound good on a basic level, it’s not an album that will necessarily get better with each listen.
But, for what it is – – fun loving, easy going, good ol’ fashioned rock ‘n’ roll in the pop format – – aces boss.