The Winery Dogs are a hair on your arms standing up true tribute to when music was played by bands. A power trio with a classic rock focus made up of Richie Kotzen on lead vocals and guitar, Billy Sheehan on bass/ backing vocals, and Mike Portnoy on the drums/backing vocals.
“We all have our own distinct voicings and styles, but we also have a common ground of music we grew up listening to,” explains vocalist and guitarist Richie Kotzen. “What makes the band so special is that somehow, in our collaboration, none of us lost our identity. We all sound like who we are yet we make music that is fresh and exciting and sounds like a new band. There’s a natural chemistry that came together; it’s one of those things that’s meant to be.”
I had first come across Richie Kotzen back in the early 90s on the Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey soundtrack. The song “Dream of a New Day” was packaged in between artists like KISS, Megadeth, and Steve Vai. I was intrigued and went out and bought the cassette for Fever Dream. I remember the song “Yvonne” being my favorite of the tracks. He would fall off my radar for a couple of years until he appeared with Poison on Native Tongue. I don’t remember anyone else in my small Iowa town knowing who this guy was that was taking over for C.C. Deville. Poison took a direction that turned a lot of fans off, but it had some awesome guitar work and was a good piece for what they were shooting for at the time. Kotzen for those into the band for the music, Kotzen was clearly the better guitarist. Rediscovering Richie Kotzen now with the Winery Dogs has been great as I have a whole catalog of his solo work to explore.
My first experience with Billy Sheehan was when he was part of the David Lee Roth band on Eat ‘em And Smile. I was a bass player at the time, so this guy really appealed to me. He has always had a sound that stuck out more than your average Joe bass player. He was certainly not just sitting in the back. When Mr. Big came out, Sheehan was again in the spotlight. Just listen to their first single “Addicted to the Rush” and tell me that doesn’t get you pumped up. His unique style and sound bring a great feel that is often absent when the bass player is just assigned basic rhythm duty.
I was shortly into my first time hearing Dream Theater’s “Pull Me Under” when I fell in love with the drums in the song. My intro to Mike Portnoy was in the beginning of this song and by the 1:00 mark I was playing air drums. To this day it is still one of my favorite tunes from the early 90s and has a notch etched into my workout playlist. I always imagined it would be an awesome song to open a show with.
I first heard of The Winery Dogs when Eddie Trunk played “Desire” on Sirius/XM Radio. I was instantly blown away as it was refreshing to hear some new, yet classic sounding, hard rock. The song itself is a great showcase of what the band is about. The trio are powerful together, with each of their contributing instruments sounding like their signature selves, yet meshing together perfectly. Add in Kotzen’s vocals and we have a winner!
The short story of how they got together is that after a collaboration that Sheehan and Portnoy had going with John Sykes (Blue Murder, Whitesnake, Thin Lizzy) fell through, Eddie Trunk suggested they work with Kotzen. The band has pointed out over and over that Richie did not come into The Winery Dogs and replace Sykes, but that they started a fresh collaboration with Kotzen and new material that became The Winery Dogs.
The band teased with video releases for “Desire” and “Elevate” for some time before the album was released in the US. I was hooked on these two songs alone and counted the days until the full album came out. The self titled debut did not disappoint. These songs, along with “We are One”, “The Other Side”, “One More Time”, and “Six Feet Deeper” are faster paced, air bass drum foot tapping rockers. “Time Machine” has a little more of a grunge feel, but has some fun bass and drum fill solos that leave you wondering where the guitar solo is. Then, before you know it, the song rips open into a jam session featuring Richie’s pickless, finger style, soloing.
The album rocks, without a doubt. What has to be mentioned though is that there are some soulful ballads that are very solid tunes as well. Richie’s vocals shine on songs like, “I’m No Angel”, “Damaged”, “The Dying”, and “Regret”.
No gimmicks here. The Winery Dogs are an authentic throw back to when music was played by bands, bringing a classic rock sound while sounding very current.
Listen to samples of the followings tracks and download at Amazon:
The Winery Dogs Official Website
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View all videos of The Winery Dogs on YouTube.