With nearly a million miles logged and 100,000 records sold, South Carolina's Blue Dogs continue to ride the highways, churn out new music, and win over new fans. This September, the band launches a fall tour with a month-long jaunt from Kentucky to Chicago to Minneapolis and down through Texas and the Deep South. The tour is a warm-up of sorts for the extensive touring they plan for 2004 in support of the band's forthcoming record produced by renowned producer Don Gehman.
The band was introduced to Gehman two years earlier at a show in New York City and the mutual admiration between the band and Gehman eventually led to the collaboration on the forthcoming record due out later in the year. Gehman has had tremendous success with similar artists such as John Mellencamp and Hootie and the Blowfish, and more recently 2003 releases by Blues Traveler and burgeoning country star Pat Green, so the pairing seemed natural. In July, the Blue Dogs recorded 13 tracks in two weeks with Gehman at the House of Blues Studio in Los Angeles and the result proves to be the Blue Dogs definitive record. Gehman has taken full advantage of the Blue Dogs penchant for Country and Americana coupled with the changing of the guard from Nashville's "New Country" to more credible artists such as Pat Green, Tift Merritt and Nickel Creek. Suddenly, the Blue Dogs have found themselves rediscovering Nashville as Nashville draws closer to the emblematic sound that helped define "The Music City".
Founded initially as a part-time love affair for writing and playing music, the Blue Dogs spent the better part of the early 90's honing their songs and live show at venues throughout Mid-Atlantic. Founding members and South Carolina natives, Bobby Houck (lead vocals/guitar) and Hank Futch (bass/vocals) have played together in one incarnation or another since the late 80's, but it wasn't until the release of the band's debut self-titled record in 1996 that the band committed to making music full-time. Through the years, the Blue Dogs have achieved a host of accolades including numerous national tours, 20-plus adds at commercial radio across the US, and 7 record releases (3 pre-1996, and 2 studio/2 live since 1996), all under the guise of an independent touring band.
Although the band has grown a legion of fans over the years, the Blue Dogs' musical diversity has been difficult to classify. Having started as a bluegrass/country/folk-rock duo, and then with the advent of a full band in 96, the Blue Dogs found themselves with echoes of bluegrass, jam band rock, commercial roots pop/rock, and Americana- somewhere to the right of Americana and left of mainstream Nashville.
In 1999, David Lowery, Cracker front-man-turned-producer (Counting Crows, Sparklehorse, Joan Osborne), captained the band's sophomore studio release Letters From Round O. Lowery seemed the perfect choice, given his similar background and vision, since he himself had bridged the gap between country and rock with his band Cracker and knew the importance of creating a balance between diversity and accessibility. The resulting record paid off and the first single from Letters From Round O, "Isabelle," found itself in rotation at Modern Rock, AAA, and Americana radio stations across the nation. National press followed suit with glowing reviews form the New York Times, The Washington Post, Hits Magazine, and Marie Claire which celebrated the band's diversity by commenting "The Blue Dogs canvass the history of roots music with obvious joy, combining blues, funk, bluegrass and rock into a winning slice of contemporary Americana."
The band entered 2002 with a renewed spirit and creative juices flowing. Primary songwriters Houck and Futch, as well as former member and longtime collaborator Phillip Lammonds, spent time immersed in songwriting sessions that would ultimately produce the bulk of the material for the band's forthcoming record. Houck also ventured to Nashville on several occasions during the year, and ultimately teamed up with songwriter/performer, Radney Foster, who co-authored two songs that will appear on the new CD.
Armed with the new material, Houck, Futch, Greg Walker (drums), David Stewart (lead guitar) entered The House of Blues Studio in LA in early July of 2003 with Don Gehman who brought to the recording process his years of knowledge and ability to evoke great songs from the band. "What stands out are the number of quality songs." Gehman recalls, "Most of the bands I?ve worked with are lucky to have 3 really great songs on the album, and the rest is filler. These guys have at least 9 or 10 really great songs on this record." Standouts including the Houck and Foster-penned "Half of My Mistakes" and "What's Wrong With Love Songs", the latter written by Houck and Foster over email and voice mail during the recording process. Country rocker "Cosmic Cowboy" sung by Futch and the classic Country homage to mothers everywhere, "Make Your Mama Proud" prove that the Blue Dogs are at the pinnacle of their craft, ready and willing to explore a multitude of styles while at the same time staying true to the soul of the Blue Dogs.