The Sheepdogs hail from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. S’toon, as it is also known, is often overshadowed by the provincial capital, Regina, the Paris of the Prairies. This is unfortunate. Anytime I’ve found myself in Saskatoon, I’ve had a hell of a time. It has a vibrant arts scene, beautiful scenery, and a pleasant vibe It is also from whence Joni Mitchell hails.
Back in 2011, five years after forming, The Sheepdogs won a contest between 16 unsigned bands to be featured on the cover of Rolling Stone. Over 1.5 million votes were cast, and the ‘boogie rock revivalists’ from S’toon won. This was when they first hit my radar, which is saying something, given I lived in Canada in those days. Their third album, Learn & Burn, was released shortly thereafter. They also hit the bigtime, playing Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, as well as the massive Bonnaroo in rural Tennessee and Montréal’s Osheaga. They also signed to Atlantic Records and the Black Keys’ Patrick Carney produced their fourth, eponymous, album. Meanwhile, Learn & Burn went platinum in Canada and became their only album to chart in the United States. This is wrong. Very wrong.
Interestingly, for me, when I hear the Sheepdogs, I see myself blasting across the plains of northern Alabama, not crossing the Canadian Prairies. That might be because I lived in Alabama when I got good and obsessed with their 2015 release, Future Nostalgia. Whatever. They make music for driving to. Or cooking to. Or hiking to. Or whatever. They make good old fashioned rock’n’roll. Frontman Ewan Currie has no delusions, he says they’re making ‘pure, simple, good-time music.’ Well, hell, yes.
So, Changing Colours. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I am not usually a fan of such a philosophy on the part of the artists I listen to. But, for The Sheepdogs, this is a smart move. Currie’s voice sounds occasionally like that other great Canadian frontman, Burton Cummings (of the Guess Who), and this is wholly good thing, as this whole 70s thing works even better. Changing Colours is, to me, the apt album title for the Sheepdogs.
Why? Because when I listen to them, in my mind’s eye tearing up Highway 72 across northern Alabama, it’s autumn. The music conjures up fading greens, browns, fading reds, auburns, and the like. I kind of see a 1970s Sesame Street kaleidoscopic production. The colours streak out and wrap themselves around each other. The guitars remain at the centre of their sound, occasionally accented with some horns. But the bass and the drums, well, like any good boogie, they drive the music.
I think I’m gonna go for a long drive.