REVIEW: THE WINERY DOGS – “III”
After seven years, the Winery Dogs are back to scratch that itch with their appropriately titled third album, III. Just in case you are new to this super-powered trio, the band is Richie Kotzen (vocals, guitar)), Billy Sheehan (bass, backing vocals) and Mike Portnoy (drums, backing vocals). III is set for release on February 3, 2023, on the band’s Three Dog Music label. That’s a whole lot of threes.
III opens up with “Xanadu”. No, this isn’t a Rush cover. This is the triple threat of Kotzen, Sheehan, and Portney at the top of their game and ready to get funky with your ass. Richie’s voice is on fire. He’s got that rich soulful bluesy swagger with soaring highs. He’s as dangerous with his voice as he is with his hands. He’s putting all his tools to work on this album.
The gritty soul tempered in blue comes shining through on “Mad World”. On top of rock-solid rhythm, you’ve got another melodic paintbrush with Billy Sheehan. One minute he is sitting in the groove with Portney and the next he is soaring with Kotzen. One of his superb solos comes right at the end of this tune to send it out with a flurry.
The rock ballad “Breakthrough” is a stand-out song on III. The music conveys feelings of both losses and of triumph. This is done through chord choices as well as subtle embellishments from each member of the band. From shiny guitar notes to the moving pulse, you can imagine the journey of losing someone and coming out better on the other side.
Another great song on III is “Rise”. This one is very intriguing with its Latin groove and wonderful vocal harmonies in the chorus. There is almost a King’s X vibe going on. This music is lush and very memorable.
My favorite song on this album is “Stars”. The driving rhythm is insistent while the guitars are hypnotic and anxious. It almost sounds like they are underwater. The opposition of the rhythm to the overall melody gives this song tension.
“Gaslight” is full of throttle rocker. Starting off with a barrage of notes and drums, it never lets up. The descending licks and interplay between Kotzen, Portney, and Sheehan reminds me of music on David Lee Roth’s Eat’em and Smile. These guys are shredding and having a blast. You can’t help but smile when you hear great musicians having fun.
Finally “Lorelei” is a smoky bar room tale of heartbreak. This song highlights the brilliance of Mike Portney. He is simply one of the best drummers in rock. On each tune on III, he employs perfect percussion. This tune needs to swing; check. This song needs to motor down the highway; check Portney can do it all but uses his nuanced playing to enhance each song.
On III, The Winery Dogs continued to evolve as a band by exploring elements of their high-powered rock sound. This is a rock album that wants to become one with the listener. Whether in the car, at the gym, or in the bedroom, the Winery Dogs want to be in your life. The songs on III are crafted to entertain and captivate you. While The Winery Dogs are not blazing any new trails with this album, they are giving you blazing performances that are tight, electric, and compelling. If you loved The Winery Dogs‘ first two albums, you definitely need to get your hands on III.