The Sheepdogs, the Canadian quartet from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, may be the last link to any pure form of rock music. Rooted in the blues, yet forged by the tough sound of electric guitars, The Sheepdogs have always reminded me of a blend of styles from such roots rock bands as The Grateful Dead, CCR and Lynyrd Skynyrd. But as an up and coming Canadian act, whose first three records barely scratched the all-important American market, The Sheepdogs finally got launched into stardom by making the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in 2011. Thus a new rock music saviour was born and the band was signed to Atlantic Records. Produced by Patrick Carney, of The Black Keys, this self-titled release is an album specifically focused to introduce the band to a larger audience. Unfortunately, while the record may generate wider appeal, it does nothing to alert or awaken the music from Tom Petty’s defined slumber. (The Foo Fighters did that!)
Recorded and mixed in two-and-a-half weeks, the first six tracks on The Sheepdogs sound just like ordinary rock songs: straight-ahead vocals, and electric guitars marginally pushing the music. Then part way through comes “Javelina!” where the album finally hits a groove. It’s an instrumental reminiscent of The Allman Brothers’ classic “Jessica” that helps showcase The Sheepdogs' sound. It doesn't rock-out like it should, but over time and some live performances it could easily become a fan favourite like “Jessica.”
It’s a pity that only half of this album succeeds. Patrick Carney’s production captures a very tight ensemble but it is a little too ostentatious. The album is still searching for a new audience in which to make an impression. And on one level it does. But it’s risk-free music with a good sound: nothing more nothing less. Better to see and hear this band in performance and take the CD as a souvenir.