• Sierra Dog Romeo — Crosseyed Loaded (2003)
If nothing else, singer/songwriter Chris Shepard has a way with titles. On this disc we've got "I Just Flat Out Can't Stop Smoking Crack," "Hell is Boring," "Bubba McBubba" and "Donkey Bomb." But do they deliver?
Well, for the most part, yes. This set of rock songs is strong enough not only for a live set, but for an album as well. That, my friends, is an accomplishment.
Sierra Dog Romeo plays like Southern Culture on the Skids but without the quirky frills. Shepard's lyrics have a way of sticking in your head. "Smoking Crack" stuck in mine for days, in fact. The music works to deliver the lyrics and melodies, but doesn't impress much beyond that. It doesn't matter — here, the songs are strong enough to stand on the strength of the vocals.
Mason Adams - Inside Out
From "Impact Press"
Sierra Dog Romeo • Crosseyed Loaded • self-released • Chris Shepard is the mind behind this rocking and sarcastic band that delivers songs about hippies, skinning dogs, smoking crack and working a 9-5. The guitar riffs are an ode to the roots of rock-n-roll with a driving bass line to go along. The overall sound is a clash of glam and grunge at their worst of peaks. Comparable in nature to the context of Ween, Zappa, Beck and Primus, expect to be entertained by a solid album of some comical songs and sounds. Check out "I Just Flat Out Can't Stop Smoking Crack" and "Down From The Sky" for a taste. (JC)
Sierra Dog Romeo - Sin & Tonic
by Ezra Waller, cincymusic.com
Chris Shepard has some stories to tell you, and you better sit down and listen. You might learn a few things from him and his band, Sierra Dog Romeo. Above all else, you'll learn that their self-produced album, Sin & Tonic, is a masterpiece of clever songwriting and shape-shifting grooves. Complex yet accessible, the hard-driving, bluesy tunes remind you of Screaming Trees, but with Chili Peppers funk and urgently picked virtuoso guitar riffs reminiscent of Jimmy Page.
Sierra Dog Romeo's hallmark is combining tight syncopated phrases and hooky riffs that stick to your brain like hot tar with freight train energy and sudden tempo shifts. Hardboiled singer/songwriter roots are evident even on the most rocking songs. You can always feel the acoustic punk edge. No matter how ornate the final result is, the original bare bones intensity remains: pick two chords and strum violently. Southern rock flavor is also present, especially on the humorous "Mean People Suck," which strongly resembles the satire of Dayton, Ohio's Spoomonkeys. Chris' lyrics paint a picture of a guy who's been there and back, and now he's returned with a buzz to give you a piece of his mind. His cynical daggers make you wonder whether he's repenting or bragging. There are eloquent passages, soulful confessions and painful realizations, all sprinkled with wry comments like "you satisfy my need for hunger," and "let me whisper in your eyes." Often, a word or two is replaced in a repeated lyric, giving things a whole new spin.
He also has a great voice, ranging from the sweet croon of "Landmine" to the growl of "Happy" and "Do What You Say." Vocal layering adds infinite dimension to the songs, plus interesting additions like the female vox in "Wine" and "Beautiful" (*NOTE FROM CHRIS: The vocals on "Beautiful" are all me.*) (courtesy of Anastasia Mooney who also provides flute on "Mean People Suck") and the unintelligible memorandum delivered at the end of "F____d" are a great addition to the soundscape. Track order is also carefully orchestrated to take you on a musical journey through Shepard's tortured landscape, wallowing in dark sexual imagery, then bathing in light with the sweet emancipation of "Beautiful." The only problem I have here is that the dissonant chords in the chorus of "Happy" are too disorienting for an album opener. Also, the vocal distortion belies Chris' talents. I understand how these quirks play on the theme of the song, but I don't feel it was the right choice for an opener. The CD is well recorded and mixed, allowing snare drum nuances and vocal purrs to shine through while giving the foundation of the songs plenty of power. The balance of instruments is very tasteful, with acoustic guitar underpinnings and classic funk scratching sharing the same space with soaring solos as on "Wine." At times, the rhythm guitar lacks thickness. There may be a desire to avoid overdriven post-grunge trappings, but the lack of presence in some spots makes you want to reach into the stereo and turn the switch from "jangly" to "bone-crushing." Musicianship overall is superb. Tightness and interplay between instruments makes you suspect SDR might be a funky jam band on the side. The guitar is like a second voice for Chris and he speaks through it effortlessly, as if he could tell you the entire story with out a word. Robby Sinclair's drumming is solid and flavorful, always complementing the feel of the song
perfectly. Hand percussion is also used sparsely, but to great effect, especially intertwined with the relentless, blazing groove of "Electrosexual," SDR's tribute to an "eternal temptress." - By the time Sin & Tonic comes to a close and Chris is staggering away, you know this album is one you'll want to revisit whether you're seeking solitary commiseration or just rubbernecking into his ship wreck love life. Sierra Dog Romeo's songwriting sensibility and relaxed playing allows them to weave you through abrupt changes in every song without making the album sound like a wankfest. The content is personal and well rendered. There are a number of songs here that could be timeless classics, but somehow a dark bedroom seems to be a more fitting venue than an arena rock radio station. The swagger in SDR's music gives you the unmistakable impression that things will be done on their terms. Hopefully their plans include making more great music.
Sierra Dog Romeo: Crosseyed Loaded
Right off the bat, this album has the potential to rock the cock, but a few "bluesy" interludes and some goofy lyrics make you miss bands like Ween who can actually get away with that sort of thing. This is especially noticeable during irreverent tracks like "I Just Flat Out Can't Stop Smoking Crack." Songs such as “Donkey Bomb” and “Sally Skinned Her Dog” utilize the tried and true guitar riffs that have been overdone since the mid-1990's in the grunge/ post-grunge era. There are, however, tender moments on this album as well, especially on “My Love,” where the Hendrix-inspired guitar seems to go along with singer Chris Shepard's Chris Cornell-esque throating and wailing. Some songs on the album rock hard indeed, but the silly themes and lyrics can keep the listener from taking the album seriously. Overall, this album has a good mix of that "down-home" kind of rock n' roll and some slower material that is reminiscent of Beck's Mutations, and one shining example of this synthesis is with "Sick in the Bed." It doesn't seem that this album or band would gather a following that extends further than the 40-year old divorcee in a cowboy hat and stonewashed tapered jeans, who shakes her ass regularly at a rodeo bar in the Appalachian Mountains on Friday nights – but you never can tell.