THE SHEEPDOGS – Learn and Burn (2011 Warner reissue, originally 2010)
Like many of you, I first heard The Sheepdogs via the excellent single “I Don’t Know”, a rollicking journey through territory pioneered by The Guess Who and Neil Young. And what a cool Canadian success story, what with that Rolling Stone cover and all.
A few months after falling in love with “I Don’t Know”, I was invited to a private acoustic session with the Sheepdogs. There were about 40 people in the room tops, including myself and my co-worker Bart who was my “+ 1”. I remember them playing “How Late, How Long” and an older tune. They were great, friendly and gracious. They did a short meet & greet after the show, and I appreciated it when Ewen said to me, “I really like your Beatles shirt. That’s my favourite period of John Lennon.” I told him I specifically picked that shirt because I hoped they’d dig it! The beards, you know?
I’m going to coin a new genre here: “Beard Rock”.
Before seeing the band, I bought the album based on “I Don’t Know”. That was sometime in fall of 2010; I remember listening to it on a cold, cold night at the cottage. My impressions? It’s a really cool mellow rock album. It sounds as if it came right out of 1969. It sounds very authentic to the period, even sonically. Very different from their current work with Patrick Carney of the Black Keys. I am impressed. I really like it. Admittedly though, it’s a bit too derivative.
Highlights for me included:
- “Please Don’t Lead Me On”, which was very Beatles-y. It’s jaunty, I like it.
- “I Don’t Get By” which has a very country (or even Led Zep III) vibe.
- “Right On” and its fat saxophone solo.
- “Southern Dreaming” which reminds me of the Allmans, CCR and The Band
- “Soldier Boy”, probably the most rocking song on the album.
- “Catfish 2 Boogaloo” kind of reminds me of a laid back version of Cream.
And, the whole Medley. These four mini-songs all meld together seamlessly, but are distinct sections. It’s a gimmick similar to Abbey Road side two, but in miniature form.
The only song that does nothing for me is the title track “Learn and Burn”. Not into the vocal hook at all. Sorry. I also didn’t dig the lyric referencing “Facebook invitations”, it just doesn’t vibe with the vintage 1971 sound of the song.
The two bonus tracks on the remastered edition are “Birthday” and “Slim Pickens”. Yes, I re-bought the album to get two more songs. You knew I would. “Birthday” is worth it, a lovely 60’s sounding pop rock tune, with twang and banjo. I wasn’t expecting “Slim Pickens” to rock as hard as it does, but it does! This is a smokin’ little electric guitar bluegrass boogie instrumental.
Good album though, and a band to watch. Their work with Patrick Carney on their 2012 self-titled record expanded on their sound. I expect them to continue to grow.