An underlying theme for The Sheepdogs latest recording opus, `Changing Colours’ is a determination by the Saskatoon-based band to continue to develop their own sound and personality.
Yes, the band’s major 2012 breakthrough, self-titled release, was produced in Nashville by Black Keys’ drummer Patrick Carney with a major corporate push supplied by Atlantic Records. But as much as the band benefitted from that initial U.S exposure, you got the feeling The Sheepdogs really wanted to evolve their own musical direction.
Left to their own devices with their 2014 release, Future Nostalgia, now on Dine Alone Records, produced by lead vocalist/guitarist Ewan Currie, may not have enjoyed the same commercial success as their `Sheepdogs’ release, the previous five-track `Five Easy Pieces EP (also produced by Carney) or even their 2010 `Learn And Burn’ record, which was re-released to capitalize on their Rolling Stone magazine Cover publicity.
Initially described as a blend of Led Zeppelin heavy guitar riffs, Allman Brothers’ Southern rock and Crosby Stills & Nash vocal melodies, the Sheepdogs have set about developing their own distinct style of harmonic country/blues rock and according to drummer Sam Corbett, the band spent over two years plotting the release of their latest opus
“We like straight ahead rock just like the next guy but we’ve always wanted to add little additional elements like a touch of jazz, folk or old time Country,” Corbett explained. “With our earlier sessions, we’d go somewhere for three weeks and work with an outside producer. That was fine, and we certainly benefitted from working with someone like Patrick Carney, but at the end of the day, we felt there was more to our sound and this was something we had to develop ourselves. So over a two-year period, we’d record for a couple of months, take a break to perform some shows and road-test some of the new material and they we’d go back in and work on more material.”
Like `Future Nostalgia’, `Changing Colours’ contains 18 tracks, but this is deceptive as with both albums, there’s an extended medley containing five tracks of assorted different ideas, a concept that has become a unique trademark of their past two releases.
“ Initially, we were thinking of releasing a 10-track, Tom Petty-style album but over like a three-year-period we had written so much material and we liked all of the songs so we thought, `let’s release them all,” explained Corbett. “I mean, these days, you only get to record an album every two or three years so we thought, `let’s release something big”.
A major boost to the band has been the insertion of guitarist Jimmy Bowskill who now joins a lineup featuring Ewan Currie, keyboardist/trombonist brother Shamus Currie, bassist Ryan Gullen and Corbett. Bowskill, who took over from Rusty Matyas when the later quit the band in July 2014 to run his own rock club in Saskatoon (Capitol Music Club).
An established blues rock guitarist who has recorded solo albums and toured with Blue Rodeo (he appears on Jim Cuddy’s latest `Constellation’ record), Bowskill has added a special new ingredient to The Sheepdogs’ recording process.
“He’s such a talented instrumentalist, he can play anything, pedal steel, banjo, mandolin,” raved Corbett. “We are so lucky to have him with the band.
So much has already happened with the Sheepdogs (Ewan Currie, Corbett and Gullen originally formed the band at Saskatoon’s University of Saskatchewan in 2004). They recorded three independent albums before a Toronto agent submitted a demo tape for `Learn And Burn’ album to Rolling Stone magazine for their Unsung Band Cover Competition. The Sheepdogs’ beat out 15 other bands for that front cover honour (the August 18th 2011 issue). Signed to Atlantic and re-released In the U.S, `Learn And Burn’ featuring hit single “I Don’t Know) , chalking up three CASBY and three Juno Awards before releasing “Feeling Good” and “The Way It Is” off their self titled U.S debut.
And although the hype has levelled off somewhat over the past few years, The Sheepdogs are about to hit the road with a major 28-date Canadian tour (launching Feb 12th in Campbell River B.C) which Corbett claims will underline the band’s on-going stylistic development. He’s excited that the band will be playing new material like “I’ve Got A Hole Where My Heart Should Be” and “I am Cool” which allows Seamus to spotlight his trombone expertise.
“There is so many new elements to the band,” buzzed Corbett. “We can have Jimmy (Bowskill) come out and play some pedal steel guitar. Playing now is so much more fun.”
For complete tour details link to www.the Sheepdogs.com