The Sheepdogs: Changing Colours (Dine Alone Records)
With Greg recently passing only Dickey Betts remains from the original Allman Brothers band and he stopped playing with them in 2000, with Greg gone the band is finished meaning that those in search of breezy Southern harmonies have to look elsewhere. I’d suggest looking North towards Saskatoon as The Sheepdog’s reaffirm their right to be classed as the natural successors to The Allman’s, their sixth album is a brilliantly realised slice of Southern boogie with new guitarist Jimmy Bowskill they have the classic double guitar sound of The Allman’s running through Nobody, I’ve Got A Hole Where My Heart Should Be, Cherries Jubilee and the slide driven instrumental HMS Buffalo.
They broaden the scope to The Eagles on the slide driven Let It Roll a song that has gorgeous vocal harmonies and leads into The Big Nowhere a track that’s got a classic Steely Dan shuffle built around percussion and a Fender Rhodes, the Fagan and Becker jazz influenced sounds coming back on Cool Down. It’s a real mix of rock, soul, country and blues and everything is done with a sense of deference and tact, The Sheepdogs really care about this music and aren’t afraid to play a jukebox of 70’s sounding tracks. I Ain’t Cool has New Orleans jazz trumpet, You Got To Be A Man brings a bit of glam rocking, Run Baby Run has the vocal approach of CSN. Changing Colours is 17 tracks long but they pass by in a glorious kaleidoscope of 70’s Americana, go grab your Stetson, get down and boogie. 9/10
Letters From The Colony: Vignette (Nuclear Blast)
The Swedes are a country that seem to be at the forefront of many musical genres but one that seems to be pretty divisive is the djent/tech/extreme metal scene, bands such as Meshuggah are seen as the originators of this style of progressive extremity and the latest band to come out of this melting pot of monstrous riffs, non-linear time signatures and general head fuckery are the oddly named Letters From The Colony. They have been a band for seven years and yet this is their debut album, this maybe because of several line up changes but finally it seems the band have settled on a steady line up of Alexander Backlund (vocals), Sebastian Svalland (guitar), Johan Jönsegård (guitar, Emil Östberg (bass) and Jonas Sköld (drums).
This line up has created a record that is experimental, chaotic, frenzied, harmonious and bloody heavy. Palm muted, chunky riffs are backed by expressive drum patterns that have grooves heavy enough to flatten a truck while there’s not a clean vocal in site. At 55 minutes it can be hard work for casual listeners but for every breakdown fuelled track such as the ominous The Final Warning you get more schizophrenic songs such as Cataclysm and Glass Palaces but things get weirder and more experimental as things go on with tracks that feature saxophones and sampled deer calls (yes really). A complex mix of Meshuggah and Gojira, it’s not for the fainted hearted or the fair-weather, those that stay though will be rewarded with some of the most aggressive, complicated music produced this year. 7/10
High Reeper: S/T (Heavy Psych Sounds)
I think High Reeper may have listened to a bit too much Black Sabbath, Die Slow the track that opens this record has definite groove of Children Of The Grave about it, from the gargantuan riff, to the Ozzy-like shouted vocals High Reeper are clearly a band that worship the sweet leaf and the originators of heavy metal. Zach Thomas, Napz Mosley, Andrew Price, Pat Daly and Shane Trimble all come from Philadelphia and they formed this band to break into the Philly stoner scene, I’d say it’s a mission complete as this self titled debut is about as stoner as you can get taking from the classic Sabbath records (Soul Taker has a familiarity about it) but also some more modern stoner sounds of Monster Magnet or Orchid.
The dual guitars bring a bit of boogie to the tracks but the rhythm section is pure Geezer and Bill, just listen to the rhythmic voodoo of the title track for some real head tripping and a drum solo as well. As long as there is metal there will be bands that will pray to Iommi and High Reeper do it more obviously than most, their second record will need a little more diversity to help them stick out from a very dense genre. 7/10
Michael Landau: Rock Bottom (Provogue)
Well this is a bit of trip, LA guitarist Michael Landau has been indulging in mostly instrumental music for around 10 years now, but with this album he decided he needed vocals so he called up his Burning Water band mate David Frazee to step behind the mic. What has come of this collaboration is a hazy kind of space blues that owes as much to Jimi as it does The Doors, swirling organs and smoky guitar playing give this record an atmosphere reserved for the best clubs in the 1970’s where a liberal peace pipe was smoked.
In places it's lounge blues with Chris Rea or Mark Knopfler the main influences, this is due to the spoken word style of the vocals. Ten tracks go by and it’s a musical journey, the brief flashes of Landau’s soulful blues guitar have feeling when they dual with the Hammond organ things really start to fly but the record itself does occasionally become background music due to its overall slow pace. This is an album for proper blues heads; if you like your blues with a bit more rock n roll in it then look elsewhere. 6/10