As the pandemic recedes, a Canadian rock band gets people up and on their feet.
The Sheepdogs’ ‘Outta Sight’ is the album you kinda hope would be leading the way out of the pandemic era. It gets you moving, raises your spirits, invokes the energy of rock and roll and makes you feel good.
This is the fourth album from one of Canada’s best roots rock bands. Since their founding in 2004, the Sheepdogs have earned a number of platinum albums and won four JUNOs, the Canadian music awards. All that while touring pretty constantly throughout North America, Australia and Europe.
Often described as in the southern rock camp, you can certainly hear the influence of the Allman Brothers and others from the southern rock pantheon. That said, the Sheepdogs are no cover band or revival act. They actually draw on a variety of influences. Their song ‘Carry On’ has echoes of those written by John Perry Barlow and Bob Weir for the Grateful Dead, as well as Weir’s solo work. This is not a great surprise as they have common roots. Sheepdogs come from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and Barlow spent most of his life in Wyoming. Both are part of the great plains that run north to south, east of the Rocky Mountains. It is a distinctive part of the continent that has inspired a particular perspective.
The song ‘So Far Gone’ shares more than a similar sounding title with Gone, Gone, Gone, from Shifting Sands, the Robert Plant and Alison Krauss album. It also has a hint of Buddy Holly’s band the Crickets. And there is a bit of bluegrass and country in Rough Rider 89. The mix works well.
The Sheepdogs’ sound rests solidly on a great rhythm section. Bassist Ryan Gullen and drummer Sam Corbett lay down a distinctive foundation. This is used as a platform for the exceptional work of guitar virtuoso Jimmy Bowskill, high-energy lead singer Ewan Currie (who also plays guitar) and his brother Shamus Currie on keyboards, trombone and guitars. They are a band of brothers and their sound reflects it. Outta Sight is the work of musicians who have played together in bars and clubs night after night, learning what each other is capable off, playing off bandmates and creating a sound that celebrates a sheer love of music. These guys are not poets, this is rock and roll. The lyrics are unvarnished expressions of classic rock themes, albeit reflecting the times, and all the songs come in at under four minutes.
When the pandemic made it impossible to tour, the band went back to basics from the early days – playing for each other, writing songs that captured the way things were in the moment. But now that the pandemic is receding somewhat, this is music that helps get everyone going. As Currie sings in ‘Carry On’, “I turned around and a year is gone, Back from the dead and I’m feeling strong, I’m in the mood for carrying, carrying on”.