December 9, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
If the music business is a flavour-of-the-month kind of proposition, Saskatoon band The Sheepdogs offers up something as basic and true as vanilla, and just as delicious. Their music -- two guitars, bass and drums -- is fundamental. Their lineage -- The Allman Brothers, Spirit -- is classic rock and roll.
So how does a contemporary band like that find an audience?
Director John Barnard answers that question with an approach that is as unpretentious as the band itself, documenting their leap from prairie obscurity to sudden fame courtesy of a Rolling Stone magazine cover story.
You can see it in Barnard's choice of interview subjects: Forget rock critics, dude, let's hear from the band members' moms.
Before the Rolling Stone story, of course, there was just years of jamming and living in their parents' basements (so, hell yes, the band members' moms definitely have something to say about it.)
Probably those prairie winters had something to do with their endurance but the band's Sam Corbett, Ewan Currie, Ryan Gullen and non-Saskatooner Leot Hanson (he's from Prince Albert) persevered to win a contest designed to give a boost to an unsigned rock band. They won in a campaign that notoriously included an appearance on Project Runway where the guys managed to maintain their dignity while being outfitted in hippie frou-frou.
And even in the context of having their own documentary feature, the Sheepdogs come across as underdogs. The initial concert footage is from gigs they played opening for Kings of Leon.
But their journey to main act status is an entertaining trip.
Barnard's ambling style in not inappropriate for the subject matter, although he does seem overly protective of his subjects. We learn, for example, that while touring the U.S., the band fired their tour manager, but we don't hear why.
Barnard also neglects to go as deeply that initial Rolling Stone article, which acknowledged that, yes, befitting a band inspired by some '70s groups, some marijuana does get smoked in their vicinity.
You think Barnard might go there too, but no, that's a kazoo and not a hash pipe Ewan Currie is sticking in his mouth.
The Sheepdogs Have At It
Directed by John Barnard
3 stars out of five
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 22, 2013 G2