The Sheepdogs – Changing Colours
Dine Alone Records – 27 April 2018
A new name to me, but Canadian quintet The Sheepdogs, fronted by Australian-born Ewan Currie, have been around since 2006 and, in 2011, became the first unsigned band to feature on the cover of Rolling Stone, leading to a brief stint with Atlantic Records. Describing themselves as a sort of middle ground between Led Zeppelin and CSN&Y and citing the likes of Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Allman Brother, Humble Pie and Sly & The Family Stone as their influences. Changing Colours is their sixth album and their second with the Canadian independent label Dine Alone Records whose roster also includes The Lumineers, Shovels & Rope and The Dandy Warhols.
Currie describes the album’s title ‘Changing Colours’ as reflecting their broader musical palette, expanding the instrumentation and sounds to take in clarinet, brass and, on the funky organ-led The Big Nowhere, with Latin percussion adding Santana to the influences. At heart, however, they remain very much a rock n roll band, nailing those particular colours to the mast with the album’s opening triplet of the rhythmic summery shuffling Nobody, the midtempo Southern barroom boogie of I’ve Got A Whole Where my Heart Should Be and the Peter Frampton-like swagger of Saturday Night.
They ring the stylistic changes with the CS&N harmonies, and country flavours of the leisurely Let It Roll with its pedal steel, slide and fiddle, the soulful, brass embellished Memphis groove that drives I Ain’t Cool and the bluesily moody I’m Just Waiting For My Time which, at times conjures thoughts of Hendrix and David Coverdale. There’s even a jaunty folksy instrumental, The Bailieboro Turnaround, titled in honour of new member Jimmy Bowskill’s Ontario hometown. Segueing directly into the similarly musically affiliated Up In Canada, it’s one of several short tracks that clock in around the 90 seconds mark, also including Kiss The Brass Ring and HMS Buffalo, both Allmans-esque guitar-led instrumentals, and, playing like a bluegrass n boogie CS&N, the close harmony, banjo-backed Born A Restless Man.
Elsewhere there’s the straight-ahead blues-rock riffing swagger You Got To Be A Man, the blues organ psychedelica-infused groove Cool Down and, another Allmans guitar sound inspired Southern bar band workout, Cherries Jubilee. Revisiting that influence, this time with tinkling keys, it ends with the instrumental Esprit de Corps and, finally, back in CS&N harmonies mode, the sun-blushed rippling rhythm of Run Baby Run.
They’ve never really broken out beyond their native Canada, but given the pick and mix diversity of the music and substantial quality throughout this album, it may not only be the colours that are changing this time around.