Since the Winery Dogs formed in New York in 2012, the trio has consistently attracted critical buzz for its obvious “supergroup” status. Richie Kotzen, formerly of Poison and Mr. Big, leads the group on vocals, guitar and keys. Billy Sheehan, who has played with Steve Vai and David Lee Roth, among others, contributes the vital bass component that gives the trio its spice. Mike Portnoy, a former member of Dream Theater and current member of Flying Colors, holds everything together on drums. Known separately for the hefty workloads they maintain and the extensive experience they embody, together the three Winery Dogs stand as a force to be reckoned with.
Released earlier this year by Loud & Proud Records, the Winery Dogs’ self-titled debut stands out for the way it straddles the line between hard rock and metal. Kotzen’s technical ferocity is immediately striking on the album’s first track, “Elevate,” a quality that aligns him with guitarists of the late 1970s and 1980s who pioneered the incorporation and dramatization of rapid scaling in rock music. Portnoy matches Kotzen’s efforts note for note in “Elevate” and later on “Six Feet Deeper,” wailing away on his kit like a modern Lars Ulrich. Yet it’s the bass that blows it all out of the water. Sheehan’s performance throughout the record cannot be summarized simply. Demonstrating a knack for recognizing the time to layer his instrument beneath those of his band mates and the time to bust out of the woodwork, Sheehan contributes an enduring presence that makes the album truly memorable.
Shortly before the worldwide release of The Winery Dogs in July, the band unveiled “Elevate” as their first official single. Since then, they have released four music videos in support of the album, the latest of which showcases the Winery Dogs’ onstage prowess as they conclude a performance of “Time Machine” for a packed venue. While most of the tracks on The Winery Dogs eventually erupt in blitzing guitar scales and frenetic drumming, “Regret” closes the album on a calmer note, allowing Kotzen room to stretch his vocals and instigate a bit of gospel-styled keyboard work. As the song trails off from an embellished musical finale, the Winery Dogs’ first studio record comes to a close. Championed by three skillful musicians and stocked with performances that only serve to demonstrate the group’s combined musical expertise, The Winery Dogs leaves the listener gratified, with one as-yet unanswered question in mind: where will Kotzen, Sheehan and Portnoy take their music next?
The Review: 8/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– Six Feet Under
– Time Machine
The Big Hit
Review by Meghan Roos