On Stage: These Sheepdogs know how to make people happy

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

The Sheepdogs

Canada’s most famous sheepdogs can be found in Saskatchewan – but don’t expect to find them herding flocks of sheep around the parkland biome just outside their home in Saskatoon.

The Sheepdogs can be found at music clubs playing their style of country-influenced rock. They also showed up on the cover of Rolling Stone. On July 31, the Sheepdogs can be found performing live onstage at the World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com).

The Sheepdogs — Ewan Currie – vocals, songs, guitars, clarinet, drums; Ryan Gullen – bass, backing vocals; Sam Corbett – drums, backing vocals; Shamus Currie – keyboards, trombone; Jimmy Bowskill – guitars, mandolin, fiddle, banjo, pedal steel – are currently touring the states in support of their new album “Changing Colours,” which was released on February 2 on Dine Alone Records.

“We recorded the new album over the course of six months in Toronto,” said Corbett, during a phone interview Monday afternoon as the band travelled from Boston to a gig in New York.

“At first, we only planned on doing a few sings. But, the recording went well, and we kept going. It was recorded in late 2016 and early 2017.”

The Sheepdogs definitely kept going once they started putting tracks down in the studio. The final edition of “Changing Colours” features 17 songs.

“Some of the songs we recorded were older ones,” said Corbett. “Others were ones we tried in one style and ended up in a different style. Others were ones we made just as we planned. And, there were some other songs that came out of jams in the studio.”

Corbett, Gullen and the Currie brothers have been core members of the band since 2006. In November 2015, award-winning blues guitarist Jimmy Bowskill from Bailieboro, Ontario, joined the band in advance of the European leg of their Future Nostalgia Tour, playing guitar and pedal steel. He has been a permanent member ever since.

The triple Juno Award-winning, Saskatoon-based quintet has long been known for its trademark guitar-driven modern-day retro rock — beef-and-boogie twin-axe riffs, hooks, shuffles and long-haired aesthetic. Now, their sound has some new flavors.

“This is our first album with Jimmy,” said Corbett. “He can play any instrument – especially country instruments like pedal steel and mandolin. With him in the band, our new album definitely has more of a country influence. In the past, we dabbled with the country influence. This time, we embraced it.

“Jimmy joined in 2015 during our U.S. tour. Our previous guitar player left, and we needed a new guitarist – STAT. Our guitar tech said that he knew just the guy. He called Jimmy. Jimmy came for the tour and has been with us since then.”

Bowskill is the only non-native of Saskatchewan.

“We started as a band 14 years ago,” said Corbett. “Me, Ryan and Ewan were students at the University of Saskatchewan. We got tired of being students, so we decided to start a band. Soon, we were touring around Canada – mostly unsuccessfully.”

Then, success came knocking on their door – in a most unexpected way.

In 2011, Rolling Stone held a “Choose the Cover” competition. The Sheepdogs beat 15 other bands to get the contest win. They were featured on the August 18, 2011 cover of Rolling Stone and were the first unsigned act to do so.

During the competition, the band made appearances on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and performed at the Bonnaroo Music Festival as well The Osheaga Festival in Montreal, Quebec. Following their win, the band signed with Atlantic Records, and recorded a new album – “The Sheepdogs” — which was produced by The Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney in Nashville.

“Our manager knew about the competition and entered us without us knowing it,” said Corbett. “Initially, we were just happy to be part of it. Then, we kept advancing – down to 16, eight, four, two and then we won. Part of being in the final two was playing Bonnaroo and on Jimmy Fallon.

“We had worked harder and been a band longer than any of the other bands in the competition. Winning was definitely a life-changer. Prior to that, if we had 100 in the audience at our shows, we’d be happy.

“In our live shows now, we’re playing eight or nine songs from the new album. The rest of the set list is mostly songs from our last four albums. We’ve played Philly a few times and we’re happy to come back. We’ve always had good shows there.”

Video link for the Sheepdogs – https://youtu.be/S74DNxGoOzU.

The show at World Café Live, which has Brent Cowles as the opening act, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20.

Olivia Chaney

On August 1, the World Café Live is hosting a show by highly-acclaimed British singer/songwriter Olivia Chaney.

Chaney’s music has its roots in English traditional music – acts like Fairport Convention, John Renbourn and Sandy Denny – and also has a lot in common with modern singer/songwriters such as Joni Mitchell. There are also signs of classical music in its DNA. At the same time, Chaney’s well-crafted songs are totally contemporary.

All of this is on display throughout the tracks on Chaney’s new album “Shelter,” which was just released on Nonesuch Records on June 15.

Chaney is an English folk singer, pianist, guitarist, harmonium player and songwriter. Her debut solo album, “The Longest River,” was released on Nonesuch Records in 2015.

“I recorded ‘Shelter’ last winter and wrapped it up by Christmas,” said Chaney, during a phone interview last week while she was travelling from North Carolina to a show in Vienna, Virginia.

“It was pretty quick. I set myself a very strict deadline and was listening to my inner voice. I also worked quickly because of the harsh setting – in the middle of nowhere in the moors of North Yorkshire.”

The album was produced by Thomas Bartlett (David Byrne, the Magnetic Fields, Sufjan Stevens, The National, St. Vincent, Florence Welch, Father John Misty) and features eight original songs, along with Chaney’s interpretations of Henry Purcell’s “O Solitude” and Frank Harford and Tex Ritter’s “Long Time Gone,” first recorded by the Everly Brothers.

The songwriting was completed prior to her time in the studio – in challenging circumstances.

According to Chaney, “I had been on the road a lot and was struggling with the grit and loneliness of urban life. I think I’d been questioning what home, belonging, a sense of purpose, and my own culture even meant. I’d been craving wilderness and a return to essentials for a long time. Then, while touring in the US, I realized the place I needed was already in my life. It was ancient, barely habitable, and remote.

“Thus, a crumbling 18th-century cottage in the austere but magical hills of the North Yorkshire Moors — a family retreat since my teens, with no electricity or plumbing, where the only water comes from a spring — became the home for my work on ‘Shelter.’ We brought out an Arts and Crafts Bechstein piano and an old wood burner to the house; and as summer’s end turned to autumn’s shorter, colder days, the room with the upright and stove fueled my stay.”

Chaney knew that this would be the perfect locale.

“I went there because the landscape is wonderful,” said Chaney, who has also sung with the Decemberists. “It’s one of my favorite places. It’s very remote. I was craving some solitude from all the noise of modern life.

“But, it was very challenging there. I think I expected more solace from the landscape and the peacefulness of being alone. I wanted to go in summer, but it took longer than expected to find an old piano. So, it was autumn when I got there, and it quickly got cold and rainy.

“There was no electricity, no running water, no bathroom. It gave me the focus I was craving. It was all right there in this ruined house in the moors of North Yorkshire National park. I wrote on guitar and piano and scribbled down things with pen and paper.”

At 14, Chaney won a joint-first piano and voice scholarship to Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester, which was focused on the classical repertoire. She then went on to attend the Royal Academy of Music in London, also on scholarship, where, as an improviser and songwriter, she studied in the jazz course. While at the Academy, Chaney spent much of her time experimenting and collaborating outside the traditional jazz course.

Chaney graduated from England’s Royal Academy of Music and then taught herself guitar and Indian harmonium — delving back to the inspiration behind the British folk revivalists. She has since built a loyal and growing following as a songwriter and interpreter, both in the U.K. and internationally, through her acclaimed and eclectic live performances and much-lauded recorded works.

“My classical training has affected me hugely,” said Chaney. “I left home at 14 to study classical music in Manchester. My classical training is a big part of my music.”

Video link for Olivia Chaney – https://youtu.be/Pp5QuDC0ps0.

The show at the World Café Live, which has Kate Dressed Up as the opening act, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $

Other upcoming weekday shows at the World Café Live this week are Victory on July 31, Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers on August 1 and Kina Grannis on August 2.

Thomas Dolby

Thomas Dolby first began building a fanbase for his music during the heyday of MTV and music videos back in the 1980s with hits such as “She Blinded Me with Science,” “Windpower” and “Hyperactive.”

Dolby, who will headline a show on August 1 at the Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com), released four albums from 1982-1992 — The Golden Age of Wireless” (1982), “The Flat Earth” (1984), “Aliens Ate My Buick” (1988) and “Astronauts & Heretics” (1992).

His next – and most recent – album was “A Map of the Floating City” in 2011.

Dolby may not have been releasing albums on his own, but he stayed active in the music world. The lengthy list of artists with whom he has recorded or performed includes David Bowie, Jerry Garcia, Ofra Haza, Joni Mitchell, Devo, Bob Weir, Peter Gabriel, Stevie Wonder, Foreigner, Herbie Hancock, Imogen Heap, George Clinton and Eddie Van Halen.

He also has composed numerous scores for films and video games, acted in a movie and filmed a documentary called “The Invisible Lighthouse.”

Dolby has also become a college professor – at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

“I’ve been living in Baltimore for the last four years,” said Dolby, during a phone interview last week from tour stop in Los Angeles.

“I had come across a posting that Johns Hopkins was looking for a part-time professor. When I spoke to the people at the university, they said they had something better for me – that they were launching a special film and music school.

“I helped launch it and build a recording studio. For three years, I taught a film and TV music composition class. Then, I moved to Peabody.”

In March 2014, Dolby was named Homewood Professor of the Arts at Johns Hopkins University. In March 2017, The Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins announced Dolby would lead a new four-year undergrad degree program — Music for New Media.

Now, Dolby is visiting select U.S. cities with a show titled “An Evening of Music and Storytelling with Thomas Dolby.” The tour coincides with the July release of his two-CD greatest hits collection “Hyperactive,” which was released on July 27 as part of BMG’s Masters Collection series.

In this intimate solo performance, Dolby allows members of the audience to randomly pick songs from his 30-year catalog. He will tell the story behind the genesis of each, while simultaneously deconstructing its musical parts, synth sounds, and lyrics. The resulting music will be output from his laptop and keyboards, and projected on a screen behind him, along with personal photos and memorabilia. Each performance will therefore be a slightly different audiovisual experience, with surprises each night.

Fans at his shows will get to experience Dolby the musician and Dolby the professor.

“Hopefully, the shows are not too didactic,” said Dolby. “And, no grades are involved.

“People are interested in how the songs are constructed and their meanings. I can pick songs to pieces, look at chord sequences, rebuild the songs and the audience can see on a screen what I’m doing on my laptop. I also have archive footage including old photos in slide shows.

“A lot of my hardcore fans have seen me a number of times and have heard me play all the songs. My audience is willing to roll with the punches. I’ve been involved in lot of idioms and I find it very interesting to show the settings of the songs.

“There has been a resurgence of interest in the music of the 80s. Still, you have to set the balance of old stuff and new material.

“In these shows, my fans select the songs – I won’t say how I do it. So, it’s different every night. The set list is never the same.”

For those unable to make it to the show in Sellersville – or fans who want to hear several versions of the show, the veteran musician/professor will be presenting “An Evening of Music and Storytelling With Thomas Dolby” on August 6 in Atlantic City at the Dante Hall Theater (14 North Mississippi Avenue, Atlantic City, 609-626-3890, www.dantehallstockton.org) and on August 8 in Baltimore at Center Stage (700 North Calvert Street, Baltimore, Maryland, 410-332-0033, www.centerstage.org).

Video link for Thomas Dolby – https://youtu.be/lwzOrurEfHM.

The show at the Sellersville Theater on August 1 will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $29.50 and $40.

Jake Shimabukuro

Two years ago, Hawaii native Jake Shimabukuro just released his “best of” live collection album — “Live in Japan” – and visited Chester County for a concert at the Colonial Theatre.

Shimabukuro also released another album in 2016 – “Nashville Sessions.” Still touring in support of that album, Shimabukuro returns to the area for a show on August 1 at The Queen (500 North Market Street, Wilmington, 202-730-3331, www.thequeenwilmington.com).

“‘Nashville Sessions’ came out right after we released ‘Live in Japan,’” said Shimabukuro, during a phone interview Friday as he travelled through New Hampshire on his way to a show in New York.

“We have a new album coming out on August 31. It’s the same band — Nolan Verner, who is a great bass player, and drummer Evan Hutchings. The cool thing with this record is that we had time to come up with arrangements. We were playing the songs live long before we recorded them.

“We recorded all the tracks as a trio and then added other elements. We added strings – cello and violin – and also added organ and horns. And, I got a lot of cool sounds with the ukulele. During the sessions, we also had Jerry Douglass play dobro on three tracks. We did half originals and half covers. It was a good range of stuff.

“There was a Jimi Hendrix track – ‘If 6 was 9’ – that we did with a section of ‘Little Win.’ We did the Zombies’ ‘Time of the Season,’ the Beatles’ ‘Elanor Rigby,’ New Order’s ‘Bizarre Love Triangle,’ and Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah.’ We had a great time.”

The wide range of material demonstrates Shimabukuro’s sense of adventure — and his musical talent.

“I always like trying new things,” said Shimabukuro. I’ve never been afraid of trying something new. I always want to be a little different.”

Accompanying Shimabukuro on tour will be Verner and guitarist Dave Preston. The three of them have come together to create an experience unlike past show. They will perform songs from Shimabukuro’s past albums, his soon-to-be-released disc and the expansive “Live in Japan” album.

“Live in Japan,” a two-CD collection, features some of Shimabukuro’s favorite songs from his 15-year career. The album includes a 10-minute classic reworking of the late George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” which currently has over 20 million views on YouTube.

Recorded in Japan during his 2015 world tour, the collection begins with a nine-minute medley including the War classic “Low Rider,” and performances of “Dragon,” “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Blue Roses Falling.”

Shimabukuro is a ukulele virtuoso and composer whose music focuses on his complex and ultra-fast finger work. His music is an impressive blend of jazz, blues, funk, rock, bluegrass, classical, folk, and flamenco.
Shimabukuro has written numerous original compositions, including the entire soundtracks to two Japanese films — “Hula Girls” in 2007 and the Japanese remake of “Sideways” in 2009.

Shimabukuro began his music career in the mid-1990’s, performing at local coffee shops as a sideman with his first band, Pure Heart. His solo career began in 2002 when he signed with Epic Records, becoming the first ukulele player to sign with Sony Music.

In the years since the YouTube clip of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” aired, Shimabukuro has collaborated with an array of artists that include Yo-Yo Ma, Jimmy Buffett, Bette Midler, Cyndi Lauper, Jack Johnson, Ziggy Marley, Dave Koz, Michael McDonald, Bela Fleck and The Flecktones, Tommy Emmanuel, and Lyle Lovett.

He sold out world-class venues, played at Bonnaroo, SXSW, the Playboy Jazz Festival, Fuji Rock Festival, the influential TED conference, and even performed for Queen Elizabeth II at the Royal Variety Performance in Blackpool, England.

“My early influences were Jeff Beck and Jimi Hendrix,” said Shimabukuro. “Some of my songs have a jam band/Jerry Garcia feel. Some are more eclectic with a Jeff Beck approach. Some are more aggressive.

“It’s a different side of the ukulele. I played it for some people and they said — this is a ukulele?  It’s not a guitar but it definitely doesn’t sound like the old traditional ukulele.”

Video link for Jake Shimabukuro — https://youtu.be/Q8aKlQOUaMc.

The show at the The Queen will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $44.50.

If you’re a Grateful Dead fan and you live in or near a major city – or in a big university town – you’re in luck because you usually never have to wait more than a few weeks for another Dead tribute show to hit a local stage.

Philadelphia is no exception.

Live Dead & Riders ’69

On August 1, The Foundry at Fillmore Philadelphia (1100 Canal Street, Philadelphia, 215-309-0150, www.thefillmorephilly.com) will present a show by Live Dead & Riders ’69.

Live Dead & Riders ’69 is an all-star group that performs the classic Grateful Dead album “Live Dead” (recorded in 1969) in its entirety. The band is comprised of original Grateful Dead pianist Tom Constanten, who played all the keyboards on the original “Live Dead” recording, and Mark Karan, lead guitarist with Bob Weir’s RatDog and The Other Ones, which featured every other surviving Grateful Dead member.

Live Dead & Riders ’69 focuses on music from 1969-70, the Dead’s pivotal era, when they went from pure psychedelia into the “Workingman’s Dead” and “American Beauty” era that added country and folk tunes to the mix.  The show will include a set of material from the cosmic cowboy New Riders of the Purple Sage’s repertoire, featuring long-time Rider Mike Falzarano, and then pure Grateful Dead, featuring Mark Karan (Bob Weir’s Rat Dog) and Slick Aguilar (David Crosby, Jefferson Starship).

This tour will reach into 1970, when the Dead began “An Evening with the Grateful Dead” concerts that included their spinoff band, the New Riders of the Purple Sage. The show will open with the band as New Riders, including Mike Falzarano, a member of the Riders for the past decade and more.

The band lists Michael Gaiman as a team member. Gaiman is a former agent for the Grateful Dead as well as an internationally-acclaimed show producer.

“We looked at Michael Gaiman and the way he put together Jazz Is Dead,” said Karan, during a recent phone interview from his home in Fairfax, California.

“He has the touch for cool ideas about tributes to scenes without being just a cover band. We built this band using myself, Tom Constanten and Slick Aguilar.

“We put this band together around the songs of the Grateful Dead. Sometimes, it sounds like the Dead and other times not that much.”

It fits because there were times when the Grateful Dead sounded like the Dead and other times not that much.

“The first run took material from ‘Live Dead ’69’ and did that material as interpreted by us,” said Karan. “When we realized it might have legs, we knew we had to do more. We needed more than eight songs to flesh out the show. We added stuff from ‘Euro ’72.’

“My taste runs more to the earlier Dead. I’m a little older than some of the others. I probably went to my first Dead show in 1966. By 1976, I had been listening to them for 10 years.

“I was in the first post-Dead band – the Other Ones with Phil (Lesh), Bobby (Weir) and Steve (Kimock). I also played in Rat Dog from 1998-2014. My guitar playing s influenced by Jerry Garcia but also by other guitar players. This band is for people that are open to the idea of re-interpretation.

“The spirit of the Dead was to always find new ways of playing. Now, there is a 50-year history of material that people want to hear played live. Our audience is clearly a jam band audience – people familiar with the Dead. It’s definitely a Grateful Dead audience.”

Video link for Live Dead & Riders ’69 — https://youtu.be/K2Dt6pmlMfw.

The show at the Foundry on August 1 will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $16.

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