WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM THE BEATLES

Words by Harry McNeil :: Images by Adam Smith

The Sundogs :: 5.5.06 :: Smith's Olde Bar :: Atlanta, GA


Lee Haraway :: 05.5.06 :: By Adam Smith
The Sundogs are one of those bands that everyone has heard of, but they're not sure where. It could be Lee Haraway's pedal steel guitar work, sitting in with the likes of Tishamingo, Captain Soularcat, Outformation and others all over the Southeast; it could be from Lee and brother Will's involvement with the Last Waltz Tribute Ensemble, celebrating the music of The Band; it could be from Andrew Hanmer's drum work on the late Mike Houser's Sandbox - or it could just be because they're simply one badass rock & roll band.

These boys started out as an alt-country band. With Will on bass and Lee playing acoustic, they were inspired by the whole Uncle Tupelo-led movement and wrote a number of songs in that vein, many of which are featured on BB Gun Days, released in 2004. But two songs on that record foreshadow the powerful, versatile rock sound that The Sundogs deliver today – "Oasis," the energetic rocker that opens the album, and "The Last Song," which closes it.


The Sundogs :: 05.5.06 :: By Adam Smith
The Sundogs entered their hometown venue of Smith's Olde Bar with plenty of reasons to be festive - they hadn't headlined in Hotlanta since January, it was Cinco de Mayo, and it was the birthday of frontman Lee Haraway. The curtain opened and the boys were already in full lather, laying down a groove from Jamiroquai's "Black Capricorn Day," inspiring some of the fine ladies in attendance (there always seem to be a high percentage at Sundogs' shows) to shake their tailfeathers.


Matt Ulmer By Adam Smith
The Sundogs have three songwriters and all three can front the band, so lead guitarist Matt Ulmer took his turn next with his own tune "Suicide Doors." Ulmer is one of the more original guitarists you'll find, but on this one he sounded a lot like Clapton, ripping off quick bursts and melodic lines on his Gibson SG while the rhythm section followed relentlessly. Lee took the reins back on the next one with his Telecaster, leading "Desperation & Borrowed Time," a straight rocker with a bit of a nod to their alt-country roots. From there, Haraway took the band into the aforementioned "The Last Song" from BB Gun Days, a slow rumble of a tune where the band backs off to let Lee set the tone. The lyrics about loss and death should come across as sad, but the boys play it with such joy that their attitude is uplifting. Will and Andrew pounded out the final coda with abandon while Ulmer climbed the fret board - the first high point of the evening.

If Lee is the standout talent in the band, then the soul and drive comes from older brother Will. He welcomed everybody to Lee's birthday party and cracked a beer into the mic for celebratory effect. Next, the band took off on a funky-ass bass line, and The Sundogs began to show yet another side of their sound on "You Gotta Believe." This one sounds like an old Staples Singers song, bouncy and soulful with an almost gospel chorus.


Will Haraway By Adam Smith

The energy of The Sundogs is one of the things that makes them stand out; they rarely take a song off, giving it all they've got and barely pausing before launching into the next one. They can always toss a change-up, like Ulmer's "Wild Ride," a heavy rocker that brings to mind fellow Georgians Drive-By Truckers. With the tone effectively set, Will Haraway took his turn at the mic for "Instrument of Change," which answers the age-old question of what AC/DC might sound like if they grew up in Memphis.

Will then invited Jon Harris, from show opener Jon Harris & the Sin Hounds, to take over on guitar while Lee moved over to his pedal steel guitar for an Ulmer-led romp through "Wait on What You Want" by the late great Paul Pena. "Wait on What You Want" was just fantastic with Ulmer, Lee, and Harris all taking solos while Will and Andrew laid down a tight groove like an old soul band that keeps the dancers movin'.


The Sundogs
After a a big hand for Harris, Lee picked his Telecaster back up to start "Oasis," the band's signature song. Maybe it's because of the brothers in the band or the fact that they hail from Atlanta, but The Sundogs are most often compared to The Black Crowes. Lee's vocals soar, the drums pound, and they always seem to play the song like their lives depend on it. With a huge crash ending and closing time creeping on us, I thought that "Oasis" might close out the night, but after a slight pause, Hanmer returned to his kit and Will got on the mic and declared, "We ain't done just yet. Get ready to see Lee's birthday present…" as the band launched into The Beatles' "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."


Andrew Hanmer :: 05.5.06 :: By Adam Smith
Lee and Will took us through this classic note-for-note, and as they reached the "Billllllllllllllly Sheeeeeeeeeeaaaaaar" lyric, I realized what was coming next. A light appeared over the drum kit, and Hanmer pulled his best Ringo, belting out "A Little Help from My Friends." I've never heard anybody do this one live, but it's perfect for these guys, with Will and Lee handling the call-and-response while joining Hanmer (and the entire audience) on the three-part harmony during the chorus. Keeping with the Beatles theme, "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" was next with the brothers trading verses. "Don't Let Me Down" was followed by "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window" and the crowd was on the ride now. Next, Lee started out the blistering Lennon classic "Helter Skelter," which was pure power, noise, and energy. Just as the song came to an end, Will was back at the mic: "WHY DON'T WE DO IT IN THE ROAD?" Screaming like Sir Paul, Will led the band through the quick fun song, and just like that, the show was over.

The crowd hollered and begged for more, but The Sundogs didn't come back and I don't blame them - covering The Beatles is a hard act to follow.

JamBase | Atlanta
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[Published on: 6/21/06]

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Comments

rebubula7 Fri 6/23/2006 07:19AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

rebubula7

Great article except Helter Skelter is a Paul song, not a John song as most would expect.

phishsticks82 Tue 6/27/2006 10:31AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

hahaha, im glad i wasnt the only one that wanted to mention that. enojyed the article otherwise

 
 

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