Blue Dogs

TrackAlbum
If I Had A BoatMusic For Dog People
Go And Say GoodbyeMusic For Dog People
Cold Sheets Of RainSoul Dogfood
Life's Railway To HeavenSoul Dogfood
I'd Give AnythingBlue Dogs
Hope She Falls In LoveBlue Dogs
IsabelleLetters From Round O
Cousin Homer's Anything Goes Dance HallLetters From Round O
Wrong Love At The Right TimeHalos And Good Buys
Half Of My MistakesHalos And Good Buys

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Contributor: Calvin Rydbom

Some acts just never break out, destined to be nothing more than a regional favorite while still managing to put out some pretty decent music. The Blue Dogs are a band that fits that definition to a tee. They’ve been mainstays of the South Carolina and Georgia music scene in the US for over 25 years, although they have done a few tours up and down the east coast of the United States. And while I think the quality of the material, nine albums total, has been somewhat sporadic throughout their career there have clearly been moments when they deserve more than the local following they currently have. The Blue Dogs are roots rock that is country tinged. with some folk and bluegrass thrown in. But for me it’s when they start harmonizing together that makes them a better than your average regional favorite.

They’ve always seemed a loose knit unit. 1991’s Music For Dog People, their first album, has a picture of Bobby Houck, Hank Futch and Phillip Lammonds identified as The Blue Dogs. On the inside they thank a member who has joined since the recording, two original members, and five occasional members.

In 1991 they were essentially a bunch of local guys, who had days jobs, cutting a first record with a bunch of covers. It wasn’t until their third album in 1997 they started writing most of their own songs. At the start some of the “occasional Blue Dogs” wrote for them but it was mostly covers as just one song was written by a core member of the band on that first album. Now it was arguably one of their best songs, but not in this early version. Still, the album had some high points, mostly Lyle Lovett’s If I Had A Boat and Stephen Stills’ Go And Say Goodbye.

The next album, Soul Dogfood, was much the same, although they tended to move away from contemporaries a bit, although not completely, and cover some traditional folk songs This album featured songs by Bill Monroe and bluegrass performer Randall Hylton. This led to the highpoint of the album as Hylton’s Cold Sheets Of Rain and the traditional Life’s Railway To Heaven as arranged by the Blue Dogs were for me clearly their second album’s best moments. But they were still just an above average local band. There weren’t any great moments yet, just some good ones.

They grew quite a bit as a band during the next four years. A big step was as to make the band their full time professions in 1996. A live album in 1995 showed them developing as live performers, and 1997’s Blue Dogs had them arriving as songwriters. The previous three albums had just three songs penned by core performing Blue Dogs. Their fourth album was made up of 11 songs written by either Lammonds, Houck or from a collaboration between the two. It probably isn’t coincidence that the harmonies and signature Blue Dogs sound found itself on this album. At their heart I’d Give Anything and Hope She Falls In Love are by the book love songs, or better yet, love gone wrong songs. Nothing new here, but the guys put it across, especially in their live performances. It probably isn’t surprising half of their releases are either a live album or a concert DVD.

Lammonds stepped back as an everyday member in 1998 to be replaced by Dave Stewart. Lammonds though hung around as one of those occasional Blue Dogs and a frequent contributor in the songwriting department.

In 1999 they released Letters From Round O which contains a pretty much perfect song in the Blue Dogs genre called Isabelle and a damn good country rocker called Cousin Homer’s Anything Goes Dance Hall.

Another live album followed before their last, at least at this point, studio release came out in 2004. All four core members and former member Lammonds received at least one song writing credit, and wrote all the songs, as their cover days were pretty much over although they do perform many during their live shows. Another by the numbers break up song called Wrong Love At The Right Time gets pulled off with their usual style. For me though Half Of My Mistakes is the high watermark of Halos And Good Buys. How can you not love a song that starts out “Half of my mistakes, I made stone cold sober/Half of my mistakes, I made at closing time.”

Two more live albums have followed, as well as some DVDs but there really hasn’t been any new material in a decade. They do seem to be one of those bands who never successfully were able to capture the magic they create live in the studio. Still the Blue Dogs remain extremely popular playing 100 dates a year in the South Carolina and Georgia area charming the home crowd folks with incredibly pleasant vocals, tight harmonies and a good stage show. A couple of those perfectly pleasant songs should have found their way into the top 40 of Americana or Adult Contemporary. But at this point they’ve sort of turned into an Oldies Act without a single national hit to their credit who still have a good following. And they make a living as musicians. There are worse lives.

Blue Dogs official website

Cousin Homer’s Anything Goes Dance Hall on YouTube

Half Of My Mistakes live on YouTube

Blue Dogs biography (iTunes)

This is Calvin’s 23rd Toppermost, so clearly he enjoys writing them and telling people what he thinks. Even more so it allows him to dive into procrastinating and avoiding the writing he is supposed to be doing. As such he has no shot in hell in completing his next book when he told his publisher he’d have it done. If you’re so inclined to read any of his real books, and have an interest in the History of Northeast Ohio, you can find them here. P.S. The three books not written by him which show up when you search his name on Amazon.com are by another writer from his hometown. This writer tells a story in which Calvin was supposedly involved in 1980-81 that he has absolutely no memory of.

TopperPost #409

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