The Sheepdogs cook up a retro-rock musical stew



By Steve Newton

When you look at the cover of the Sheepdogs album Learn & Burn, it’s pretty easy to imagine what the music inside might be like. The photo depicts three shaggy guitarists rocking out, and the guy in the middle—with his dirty-blond hair hanging down over his face—looks a lot like Duane Allman in the At Fillmore East days. To his right is a bearded fellow with thick black curls whose whole vibe screams Carlos Santana at Woodstock.

So it’s no surprise that the first single from Learn & Burn, “I Don’t Know”, boasts a heavy southern-rock vibe, or that the title track features smouldering Latin-rock elements. On the phone from T.O.—where his band is performing as part of the Toronto International Film Festival—Sheepdogs songwriter, vocalist, and guitarist Ewan Currie (the Allman-lookin’ dude) admits his group’s indebtedness to the sounds of the ’70s.
“We just wanted to take all the music that we like and kind of combine it,” says Currie, “and hopefully it’s our own kind of musical stew. It just happens that a lot of it typically comes from the ’60s and ’70s. The type of music being made at that time really speaks to us, I guess.”

It also speaks to the hordes of folks who, impressed by the Sheepdogs’ retro leanings, voted for them in a competition to see which unsigned act would be the first ever to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone. The Sheepdogs eventually took that top prize—their unkempt image gracing the magazine’s August 5, 2011, issue—but not before facing off against cofinalist Lelia Broussard at the Bonnaroo festival in Tennessee, where Currie got to see both his hero Gregg Allman and the reunited Buffalo Springfield perform.

Another byproduct of the Sheepdogs’ recent popularity boost is their scoring of the opening slot on the Kings of Leon’s upcoming cross-Canada tour. Currie is particularly psyched about warming up for the Followill clan because when his band started out it covered a ton of material from the first KOL album, Youth and Young Manhood.

As far as the actual Rolling Stone article goes, Currie says it was a “surreal” experience absorbing the Austin Scaggs–penned piece. So did he and his bandmates get up early on the day of publication so they could race out to the nearest bookstore and buy as many copies as they could carry out?

“We were actually given a whole box of them the day we found out we were on the cover,” explains Currie. “I wish I still had one of them, because they all kinda disappeared over the last month or so. People kept askin’ for them and grabbin’ ’em, and I’m not very good at saving the mementos. But I think my mom has a couple, so I should be okay.”


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