Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Winery Dogs - The Winery Dogs

The Winery Dogs
The Winery Dogs
Loud & Proud Records

Since parting ways with Dream Theater in 2010, drummer Mike Portnoy has racked up an impressive list of projects, most of which have been interesting, but ultimately unsatisfying given his past achievements (Most notably Adrenaline Mob). But with his involvement in The Winery Dogs, Portnoy has finally managed to produce something that will have fans sitting up and taking notice – and in a good way.
Coming together in 2012, The Winery Dogs, who consists of Portnoy (Who aside from playing drums provides backing vocalist), lead vocalist/guitarist Richie Kotzen (Ex-Poison/Mr. Big) and bassist/backing vocalist Billy Sheehan (Ex-Talas/Niacin/David Lee Roth/Mr. Big/Steve Vai), were quick to draw the attention to themselves given the line-up. And rightfully so too, as all three of those involved in the group have quite an impressive list of achievements to their respective names. But while it all sounded quite interesting on paper, there was always a question mark over whether the combination would result in an album that lived up to expectations. In short, yes – for the most part.
The Winery Dogs’ self titled debut sounds exactly as you would imagine it does. If you’re familiar with Kotzen’s solo work, and you can imagine the bass sound delivered from Sheehan, and Portnoy laying his distinctive drums over the top, then you know exactly what’s delivered on this thirteen track album. This trio delivers a classic hard rock sound, with a side serving of soul for good measure.
The trio open up the album with the energetic and funk edged ‘Elevate’, which gives you a good feel for what the band offer up on a larger scale throughout the whole album. Kotzen oozes soul on the vocal front, while his guitar playing sounds effortless in its complexity and fluency. But what really stands out are the pockets of improvisation that the band allow for everyone to have their moment to shine. Sheehan, whose bass dominates throughout given its presence on the mix, gives listeners a fast paced run that is sure to remind most of his unique sound, while Portnoy gives the song exactly what it needs, but with enough technicality and flash to have budding drummers scratching their heads.
Things take a turn towards the funkier with the follow-up track ‘Desire’, while on ‘We Are One’ and ‘Criminal’, the trio lock into an unbreakable groove with a slightly darker and heavier edge - which showcases a different side to the band’s wide encompassing sound repertoire.
‘I’m No Angel’ is the first ballad-like track on the album, but avoids the cliché of plodding blandness with Kotzen playing up a storm throughout (The same could be said for ‘You Saved Me’ and ‘Damaged’ as well), while tracks such as ‘The Other Side’, ‘Six Feet Deeper’ and ‘Not Hopeless’, the band balance things out perfectly by rocking out with plenty of enthusiasm and their penchant for locking into irresistible grooves.
‘One More Time’ is an interesting track with its subtle southern rock edge on the riff front and Kotzen’s echoed vocals, while on the lengthy/moodier blues based ‘The Dying’, the band really do step outside their comfort zone to experiment more, with great results.
Finishing up the album is ‘Regret’, which is essentially a soulful/blues number that’s indicative of Kotzen’s own solo material, and that’s not a bad thing at all.
I’m always wary of supergroups and even more sceptical of any project these days with Portnoy given his output over the last couple of years. But if there’s one group that lives up to their pre-release hype more than any other I can remember in recent years, its The Winery Dogs. The band’s debut is a solid collection of classic rock, but with enough soul, technical finesse and class to keep the fans of those involved, satisfied.

For more information on The Winery Dogs, check out - https://www.facebook.com/TheWineryDogs

© Justin Donnelly