Retro Rockers The Sheepdogs Return Once Again to Niagara-on-the-Lake

Sheepdogs 2019

Back in 2017, the Jackson-Triggs winery invited Saskatchewan rockers The Sheepdogs to perform at their annual Summer Concert Series, giving us our first opportunity to not only see the band live, but to enjoy their brand of blues-country-rock in the setting of their 500-seat outdoor amphitheater.  The show was a runaway success, and prompted an invite back to perform again last year.  With the knowledge that the show sold out in less than two hours, the Sheepdogs returned with plenty of swagger this time around, performing plenty of hits and happily waking up the neighbors in the process.  A third successive show was a sure thing!

Once the 2019 Summer Concert Series was announced, we were not surprised to see that the Sheepdogs were penciled into the lineup for two shows over consecutive nights.  Opting for the Friday night show, we literally hovered over the venue website to secure our tickets for the show; finding out shortly afterwards that this particular night was sold out in just under 30 minutes. We quickly learned too that Edmonton, AB indie-rockers Altameda were to accompany the Sheepdogs for most of their ON dates, giving us an opportunity to finally catch this great musical act too.

Introduced to the stage for their second straight evening, the quartet of Troy Snaterse (guitar/vocals), Matthew Kraus (keyboards), Todd Andrews (bass) and Erik Grice (percussion) would be joined on stage by a good friend and pedal steel wizard for six of their seven songs performed on this night.  “We’ve a brand new record that was produced by our friend here, Mr. Aaron Goldstein,” Troy shared, introducing the easily recognizable gentleman to his immediate right.  “And the title of the record is Time Hasn’t Changed You, and the title of this next song is Time Hasn’t Changed Me.”

It was their debut “Dirty Rain” album in 2016 that first brought Altameda to our attention, making it extra special for us to hear them knock out the title track and one other number from that record.  “We spent the day at [Niagara] Falls, and then we all went go-karting,” Troy shared prior to performing “Queen Of The Street.”  “We may have ruined a couple of ten year old’s day, but we had a great time.”   Making a late change to their predetermined set, the band would add the Tom T. Hall classic, “That’s How I Got To Memphis” mid set.  “We just decided to try this cover here today,” Troy shared. “We kinda pseudo learned it at the sound check.”  Closing with the lively track “Bowling Green,” from their new album, Altameda had earned the full attention of the audience, and left us craving much, much more once their momentary time in the spotlight drew to an end.

What can we possibly say about the Sheepdogs that we’ve not previously covered during our recaps of their past performances at Jackson-Triggs?  Well, plenty, actually!  The SK flag proudly draped over the organ to remind you of where they call home.  The talents and musical vision of both Currie brothers, Ewan (guitar/vocals) and Seamus (keyboards/guitar/trombone/vocals).  The flamboyant throw-back rock persona and energy of Ryan Gullen (bass).  The insane skills of Jimmy Bowskill (guitars/pedal steel), rocking a bold Nudie Cohn inspired suit and showing off his custom twin neck guitar/mandolin.  But nothing trumped the sentimental lump in my throat when seeing Sam Corbett (drums) walk out onto the stage, in appreciation of his recent serious health scares that forced the band to postpone an overseas tour so that Sam could receive immediate medical treatment back in Canada.  Not only was Sam back behind his drum kit, but he brought his A-Game for their third annual performance at the winery.

Thoughts return of their inaugural show at this venue, and how they not only had new material to road test from their upcoming (at the time) new album, but also how Ewan shared that the band really were not sure of what to expect performing in a prestige winery.  This prompted a flashback to last year, when the band had no reservations this time around, and several of those new songs from last time were now more than familiar, thanks to heavy rotation from radio airplay.  And this time around, with no new material in hand, the Sheepdogs performed what I consider to be their finest Jackson-Triggs appearance to date, letting the music do most of the talking, and with just a few fleeting moments of conversation between tracks.

With a 20 song set list, the band come out with their guns blazing.  Opening with “How Late, How Long,” one of two tracks taken from their 2012 Self Titled album, the show would naturally include many popular tunes from their most recent 2018 “Changing Colours” (9 tracks), and 2015 “Future Nostalgia” (5 tracks) albums.  Adding in one of their earlier hits, “Who,” you have to dig as far back to their 2011 “Five Easy Pieces” EP to locate the studio version of this one.  Treating the audience to popular numbers such as “Downtown,” “I’m Gonna Be Myself,” and “Nobody,” the party was in full swing all night.

The five talented musicians all took turns to shine in the spotlight. In addition to handling the lead vocals for the majority of the show, Ewan Currie also dazzled with his guitar skills when needed, both solo and alongside lead guitarist Jimmy Bowskill.  And as for Bowskill, he continues to feed the myth that he was born with a six-string in his hand.  Those unbelievable skills earned sufficient feedback from the 500 fans in attendance all evening, and deservedly so.  Of course, his equally impressive display of pedal steel during both “Let It Roll” and “I Ain’t Cool” are as equally entertaining to watch.  Seamus Currie plays two keyboards simultaneously with ease, adding tambourine when needed, an additional electric guitar during “Nobody,” and of course, some sweet trombone for good measure too.  Holding down the grooves, both bassist Ryan Gullen and drummer Sam Corbett keep everything in perfect time; Gullen playing relentlessly all night with unmatched energy, and Corbett given a much appreciated solo when closing out “I Don’t Know, pounding the skins with a wild abandonment.

In similar fashion to last year, the Sheepdogs returned for an encore number, once again opting to perform a cover of The Allman Brothers classic hit, “Ramblin’ Man.”  Jimmy  would take care of the lead vocal duties, delivering the first verse and chorus, before yielding the lead back to Ewan.  Jimmy, of course, would give his standard Gibson guitar a good workout during a lengthy solo, accompanied in part by Ewan up on the front edge of the stage.  This band know the formula for closing out a show, and are likely to be a highly demanded act for next season.  If the Sheepdogs can sell out both nights in under an hour, I’m hazarding a guess that three consecutive nights may be needed next time around. No matter what, if the band return for their fourth straight season, we’ll be doing everything possible to try and be there once again.

The Sheepdogs Set List:

  1. How Late, How Long
  2. I’ve Got A Hole Where My Heart Should Be
  3. Who?
  4. Bad Lieutenant
  5. Southern Dreaming
  6. Right On
  7. Good Man
  8. Downtown
  9. Cool Down / Kiss The Brass Ring
  10. Take A Trip
  11. The Bailiebro Turnaround
  12. Up In Canada
  13. HMS Buffalo
  14. I’m Gonna Be Myself
  15. Let It Roll
  16. I Ain’t Cool
  17. Help Us All
  18. Feeling Good
  19. I Don’t Know
  20. Nobody

Encore:

  1. Ramblin’ Man (Allman Bros. cover)

 

 

Martin Noakes

The British guy that crossed the ocean and crash landed in central Pennsylvania (to quote Greg Keelor, “And I wonder what am I doing here?”). As the youngest of four siblings, exposure to music from a very early age nurtured my passion and appreciation for many musical genres. Continuing to discover some amazingly diverse and talented musicians based in Canada, I gravitate to live music experiences and remain devoted to spreading the word about such a vibrant music scene.

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