Anyone who thinks that “rock is dead” should circle October 2, 2015 on their calendar – the release date of The Winery Dogs’ sophomore album, Hot Streak. Rock may never return to its glory days from a sales perspective, but musically speaking, The Winery Dogs have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that rock is very much alive and well with an album that transcends the splintering sub-genre trend that has occurred in recent years.
In the world of sports, it takes more than two accomplishments or victories to be considered a streak, much less a “hot streak.” However, with the release of their second album that – like their eponymous debut – features all substance and no filler, it’s fair to say that The Winery Dogs are on a Hot Streak.
Due to the emergence of streaming and slowing sales, many artists have reverted back to releasing EPs rather than full-length albums. The Winery Dogs, on the other hand, have released an album that is much more than a collection of songs. Hot Streak is a throwback to the glory days of rock, a musical journey that washes the world away and provides a welcome respite from the sensory overload that most of us experience on a daily basis.
Somewhere along the way – spurred on by the digital revolution and technological advances – singles surpassed albums on the rock and roll hierarchy, and developing artists had to become mindful of fitting into radio formats. While The Winery Dogs technically fall into the category of developing artists, they are not bound by the same constraints as others. This is partly due to their vast individual resumes, but most importantly, their ability to perfectly blend virtuosity with songwriting chemistry is what really makes them rise above the din. Simply stated, The Winery Dogs will continue their ascension in the rock world with Hot Streak because the music is too good to be ignored, even if they don’t fit neatly into a radio format.
From the high-energy, in-your-face intensity of the opening track (“Oblivion”) to the soothing sound of rain as the album fades out on the final track (“The Lamb”), Hot Streak gives new meaning to the proverb…“in like a lion and out like a lamb.”
Over the course of the 13-song musical journey that is Hot Streak, The Winery Dogs deliver an album that not only must be listened to in its entirety to be fully appreciated, but also gets better with each subsequent listen as you peel back the layers and discover the nuances that make this power trio so unique.
Even though Hot Streak is only the band’s second album, they have already established an identifiable sound that shines through on the title track, “Oblivion,” and “Devil You Know” (which features a Van Halen-esque riff). Other influences permeate the album as well, often times in very subtle (but cool) ways.
“Captain Love” shares the mystique, powerful guitar riffs and haunting vocals of Deep Purple’s “Perfect Strangers.” The huge sound of this straight-forward track conjures up nostalgia for ’80s blues rock.
“How Long” introduces a ’70s guitar riff that is in the same vein as Robin Trower’s “Too Rolling Stoned” and the theme song to Shaft. Influences aside, the most intriguing part of the song is hearing Richie Kotzen match his vocal lines to his guitar.
The Shaft vibe continues at the onset of “Empire.” It’s hard to envision another rhythm section carrying this song the way that Billy Sheehan and Mike Portnoy do, with Kotzen’s guitar riffs and leads accenting the song (brilliantly).
“Fire” offers a break in the action, showing another side of The Winery Dogs. The Spanish guitar featured in this moody, emotive ballad gives the song a tropical vibe. Portnoy and Sheehan show that they have much more to offer than just intense rhythms as they let the song breathe and focus their attention on beautiful backing vocals.
Following the subdued “Fire,” the intense opening of “Ghost Town” is like a roller coaster dropping after a slow climb. Portnoy and Sheehan keep the pace pumping throughout (even during Kotzen’s moodier vocal moments) without ever overpowering the song.
The hook of “The Bridge” is the furious riff. Kotzen shows off his deeper vocals, giving you an even greater appreciation for his range when he transitions to the higher register. This song also shows what makes The Winery Dogs so special, jamming to show off their musicality rather than their virtuosity.
When executed properly, space can be as musical as the instruments being played. “War Machine” not only showcases a mastery of space, but also some incredible moments for each member of the band to shine throughout the song.
“Spiral” is a slower tempo, emotive song featuring some cool underlying effects that are reminiscent of the ones that Led Zeppelin used on “Carouselambra.” Kotzen oozes cool on this track.
The Kotzen cool is in full effect on “Think It Over,” a track that shows that The Winery Dogs make their own rules and write songs from the heart with no regard for genre. The end result is a brilliant track that opens with a Steely Dan “Dirty Work” type intro and a Lenny Kravitz vibe. On an album filled with jaw-dropping musicianship, “Think It Over” is more about great songwriting and incredible vocal harmonies.
The sound of fading rain at the end of “The Lamb” is met with mixed emotions…disappointment that the 13-song musical journey has come to an end, and gratitude to have taken the journey in the first place. If every album offered as much bang for the buck as Hot Streak, music fans would see the value in owning a tangible product instead of just streaming it online. Serious music fans should make sure to add Hot Streak to their collection, and don’t miss out on the opportunity to see The Winery Dogs in a live setting…money well-spent!