The hard rock music genre has been flourishing in recent years. With so many great albums coming out each year, some inevitably slip through the cracks and don’t get their proper due at the time of their release. This was definitely the case with The Winery Dogs, whose debut album was released one year ago this week.
Inspired by The Winery Dogs, Hard Rock Daddy will be taking advantage of Flashback Friday (on occasion) to take a “second bite of the apple” and review noteworthy recent albums.
The timing of this first Flashback Friday article comes on the same day that The Winery Dogs are wrapping up their first-ever “Dog Camp” – an immersive program for aspiring musicians of all ages and skill levels. Campers were afforded the opportunity to attend instrument-specific clinics, learn songwriting mechanics and enjoy intimate performances from the group (those lucky dogs!).
Often times, “supergroups” come together as a side project for a limited amount of time. Based on their debut album, we can only hope that The Winery Dogs do not fall into that category. The chemistry that exists between these three virtuosos is something to behold. One listen to their debut album and you’ll be left to ponder two questions…
“How is it possible for a new power trio to sound like they have been together for decades?” and “Why did it take them so long to find each other?”
The Winery Dogs march to the beat of a different drummer, and not just because of Mike Portnoy’s incomparable drumming, which together with Billy Sheehan’s signature bass playing, comprises one of the best rhythm sections in hard rock today. In an unprecedented move, the band put out a box set entitled Dog Treats, less than a year after their debut album was released.
Portnoy and Sheehan were already household names in the hard rock genre for their previous work, so the biggest beneficiary of this supergroup is the band’s highly underrated, dual-threat vocalist/guitarist, Richie Kotzen, whose work on The Winery Dogs’ debut album is nothing short of brilliant.
Kotzen is able to showcase his blues-based guitar virtuosity on the album because of the incredible rhythm section behind him. From riffs to nuanced guitar parts to shredding leads, Kotzen’s playing is, at times, reminiscent of another legendary guitar player named Ritchie (Blackmore). And though he draws justifiable comparisons to Soundgarden frontman, Chris Cornell, other (less obvious) vocal influences help shape his style into something unique.
The Winery Dogs debut is a straight forward hard rock album that features a modern take on an old-school, blues rock sound. Because Kotzen’s vocal similarity to Cornell, it’s easy to compare the album to Soundgarden, but a more in-depth listen reveals many layers and influences from each of the individual members.
Songs like “Not Hopeless” and “Time Machine” showcase the dynamics, intricacies and seamless time changes that Portnoy was famous for with Dream Theater. The songs also feature the signature sound that Sheehan made famous with Mr. Big’s “Addicted To That Rush.”
There are tasteful moments on the album where the band members each show off their immense talent, but always within the confines of the songs which are generally very melodic, and always incredibly tight.
Kotzen’s vocals shine throughout the album as he showcases his vast range. On “The Dying” and “Regret,” Kotzen transitions from a soulful, southern rock sound to falsetto accents without missing a beat.
If you are a fan of bluesy hard rock and masterful musicianship, The Winery Dogs debut album is a must-have for your collection. If the album has somehow eluded you, don’t miss your opportunity to take a second bite of the apple on this Flashback Friday!