• John Van de Mergel

Albums | The Sheepdogs, Outta Sight


Wie bij het beluisteren van deze muziek geen immens brede smile op zijn tote krijgt, is wel een héél grote zuurpruim. Van bij de aftrap tot het affluiten telt Outta Sight nummers die zalig zijn om naar te luisteren, nu en dan een dansbeentje losmaken en hier en daar het hoofdje doen knikken. Heel het album is een throwback naar de late sixties en vroege seventies, toen bands als deze nog 'gewoon' rockmuziek maakten en er geen vijfhonderd subcategorieën bestonden. Complexloos, vrij van grenzen, focus op de song en de belevenis ervan.


Toen ik eerder een song aan bod liet komen, refereerde ik naar Lynyrd Skynyrd en The Allman Brothers. Damn, zat ik hier fout. In die zin dat ik véél te eng schoot. Op Outta Sight hoor je een smeltkroes van zowat alles wat de eerder aangehaalde tijdsperiode in rock én aanverwanten had te bieden. De Canadezen laten alles ook klinken alsof ze regelrecht uit die decennia komen, zonder oudbollig of geitenwollensokkenachtig (wat een woord) te klinken. Jawel, je hoort de eerdergenoemde bands passeren, maar voeg daar gerust nog The Rolling Stones en een glamloze T. Rex aan toe én The Charlie Daniels Band én Chicago (met Terry Kath en zonder blazers), zelfs wat Doobie Brothers en JJ Cale. De invloeden zijn zo talrijk dat ieder er wel iets anders in zal horen.


Het album telt elf (korte) songs, maar je voelt gewoon dat die live tot langere jams kunnen aanzwellen. Live is trouwens hoe je deze band moet ervaren. Ik zag hen ooit aan het werk in Trix, toen ze openden voor Rival Sons. Ik kan jullie verzekeren, het was de moeite! Wat keek ik ernaar uit om ze als headliner te zien. Spijtig genoeg laat een nieuwe job mij niet toe tijd vrij te maken. Of je ze nu op een festival, in een schuur, een stadion of kleine club kan zien, ik kan hen enkel warm aanbevelen. Vanzelfsprekend ook dit nieuwe album.

Releasedatum: 4 juni 2022


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The Sheepdogs return with straight ahead pandemic rock ‘n’ roll that won’t bum

you out because it saved them—and maybe it will save you, too.

Hailing from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, The Sheepdogs are a hard-working, hardliving,

straight-up rock ‘n’ roll band who return with Outta Sight, the grooviest,

simplest, most penetrating album of their career. Recorded during the pandemic

the band — Ewan Currie, Ryan Gullen, Sam Corbett, Jimmy Bowskill and Shamus

Currie — were, like the rest of us, confused, cast ashore, and feeling isolated

during COVID. Their response was to do what came most naturally to them:

making stripped-down rock ‘n’ roll.

“It’s a weird world. Everybody stuck in place, overthinking absolutely everything.

We wanted to avoid all that — just get in the room, plug in your guitar and go. So

that’s what we did,” says singer Ewan Currie, who cut most of the album’s tracks

in three takes. “Themes like optimism in the face of adversity, standing tall and

staying strong, knowing that better times are around the corner kept coming

through when making the record and it felt really damned good to play.”

Responding to the pandemic — the fear, the lack of income for a group that earns

their living playing hundreds of annual shows — The Sheepdogs did what was

instinctual to them, they started jamming like they did in their teens. With no

roadmap and an overall uncertainty hanging over the universe, the band got in a

circle, plugged into their amps, shared riffs and melodies and leaned on each

other. The guys say it was the least prepared they’ve been cutting a record since

their self-titled album in 2012. Bassist Ryan Gullen calls the music they made a

life-raft.

“Those first sessions saved us from our anxieties — like, when there’s nothing

you can do and no one knows what’s happening, playing rock music kept us

grounded, kept us going,” says Gullen, adding that this record is the freest he felt

since performing his band’s 2006 debut, Trying to Grow. “We’ve developed this

ability to gut check one another about what’s working. Not in the sense, ‘Is this

song going to be a radio hit?’ We’re not playing that game, but over all these

years, we’re happy to put our head down and grind. What you see is what we

are. We’re not pretending. We make music we like because it’s important to us.”

Despite their incredible legacy which includes #1 songs, gold and platinum

albums, countless sold-out tours and landing the cover of Rolling Stone, the group

never put on airs and never stopped trusting each other — getting better at their

craft and performing before as many fans as they could reach around the world.

On Outta Sight, a barn-burner that finds the band back to its roots after the

psychedelic exploration of Changing Colours, the music is instinctive, groovebased

and fundamental: no over-thinking muddling the riffs. Songs like I Wanna

Know You and Scarborough Street Fight appeal to the senses. Its feel-good music

made to help them, and the listener, celebrate life.

“The band still operates under the same principle we were founded on: dudes

who like to rock, making rock music that sounds like what we like to listen to

because there’s nothing like that around us.” adds Gullen, who says there’s a

vibe, not a concept, driving his record. “Recording time is usually so preciously

slotted between being on the road, but this time, when there was no road, things

evolved naturally. We worked out a song until it felt good and then recorded it.

The songs benefiting from the pressure being taken off guys, who love playing to

each other’s strengths.”

The might of The Sheepdogs at full throttle exhilarates your senses. Without

pretension, it’s urgent, rhythmic and fun. It’s a break from slick production and

gazing at your navel; proclaiming joy with the jubilation of drums, bass, horns,

and electric guitar. The Sheepdogs make tunes that make you nod your head with

artistry beneath the stadium scale riffs. With harmonies, multiple guitar parts

and a groove behind a rhythm section that hangs out together even when they’re

not on the clock. It is battle-honed and spit-shined between vans, garages,

thousands of soundchecks and, yes, headlining shows.

“A no-bullshit approach, a workman-like ability to put our heads down and just

play resulted in a real feeling and vibe on the record that I think is special.” says

Currie “It’s something that just might have saved us, and the feeling on the album

is us taking that negative pandemic energy and expressing it, transferring it,

through non-bummer straight ahead rock ‘n’ roll.”

Outta Sight is the biggest, brightest, beer-swillingest, lighters lit in the cheap

seats, non-bummer COVID stadium rock record to emerge from the pandemic

blues. It’s got humour, it’s got chops, and it’s performed and recorded by five

brothers from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan who are grateful to get together and

play for rock fans.

“Rock ‘n’ Roll is about cheering us up. Simple as that,” says Currie. “We hope our

music does the same for the listeners at a time where things still can feel very

tough. There’s no greater truth than rock ‘n’ roll.”