Sophomore albums often fall short for supergroups like The Winery Dogs. For the first one, everything’s nice: a bunch of talented musicians looking for a different thrill get together and out of that excitement comes an album of material. But then someone says “You guys should do another”, and it’s a different game. Maybe they’ve used up the song ideas they’d gathered over the years. Maybe they have to squeeze the writing between other assignments. But for some reason, capturing the magic a second time isn’t easy.
So I pressed “Play” on The Winery Dogs’ latest, half expecting to be disappointed. But “Hot Streak” is worthy of its title: it picks up where their excellent début album left off, and keeps going up, offering 13 tracks that equal and surpass the earlier album. First single “Oblivion” opens the album, and it’s clear from the first few bars that the Dogs haven’t lost a step. They’re also a little less shy to let their technical abilities shine through this time around. Hey, when you have a band with Richie Kotzen on guitar, Mike Portnoy on drums and Billy Sheehan on bass, you expect some instrumental fireworks. But the songs remain the focus, and the music never become a wankfest.
The title track introduces a funky influence that I don’t remember being so prominent on the first album, and when it’s present, the songs seem to perk up; where the first album played it a little safe with its classic rock sound, this one seems more infused with each musician’s personality. Singer/guitarist Richie Kotzen channels his inner Chris Cornell (and a hint of Sammy Hagar) with a gruff voice that gives the songs grit and soul, and the rhythm section of Portnoy and Sheehan is the engine that drives the band.
The first album came out of nowhere, lost among the myriad of Mike Portnoy projects. But it gathered great reviews and even some celebrity endorsements. Expectations were much higher for the follow-up, and the Dogs have met the challenge head on. They’re on a hot streak indeed.
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He's also a regular contributor at the excellent news site Montreal Rampage
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