Is "polished retro" an oxymoron or is it possible for the past to be repackaged into something shiny and new? That is the quandary implicitly posed by this Canadian quintet's 'boogie rock' sound in their follow up to their oximoronically titled 2015 release ‘Future Nostalgia’.
Ewan Currie, the band's singer, guitarist and songwriter says “We identify strongly with rock ‘n roll, but there’s definitely some branching out”. By this, he refers to some experimentation with new instrumentation that involves him playing the clarinet at one point and new Sheepdog Jimmy Bowskill contributing mandolin, fiddle and banjo.
The Sheepdogs' claim to fame is that they were the first unsigned band to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone, an achievement (in 2011) that subsequently led to a performance on 'Late Night With Jimmy Fallon'. (Having Trump supporter Kid Rock as a mentor is another item on their CV, and one I personally would recommend they keep quiet about!).
This album has 17 tracks but since half of them are under 3 minutes long we are mercifully spared any indulgent Southern styled jams.
In the opening, and longest, track Nobody (4:30) the statement that "I need a good woman and a Rock'n'Roll band" is an indication that the band are built around stereotypical ambitions. This and the follow up tune (I’ve Got A Hole Where My Heart Should Be) are based on predictable riffs and the expectation (fear?) is that the rest of the album will plod along in the same vein.
Yet while there's no shortage of Allman Brothers Band moments, they happily also opt for a little variety. The Big Nowhere uses Latin percussion reminiscent of Santana's debut album, I Ain’t Cool toys with a Stax-soul template and the closing run of tracks, which began life as an extended 6-part medley, have a distinctly folk flavour.
With elements drawn from so many identifiable sources, the album is far from original but it's played in right spirit and offers some undemanding drive-time music.
The Sheepdogs' website