Once, about five years ago, my wife and I took to the state of Tennessee for a road and camping trip to celebrate our first anniversary. We traveled with no agenda, without a plan, just a thick travel book of the state, filled with landmarks and points of interest. We let a slow progression of time, our interests and where we thought we could find a decent state park or campground, with clean facilities guide us through the seven days we were gone. We kept the windows down for whole days at a time and listened to random shuffles of tunes. One of the arbitrary places that we stumbled into - though not odd at all, nor unheard of - was the Jack Daniels distillery in little Lynchburg. It's a small dot on a two-lane highway, on which you could creep for hours if you were to get stuck behind a leisure motorist. Most of the people in the city, in the middle of a dry county that neighbors the next closest wet country and home to the Bonnaroo festival just 20 minutes to the north, work to make that Tennessee Whiskey of JD's and strolling through the mashing and fermenting room of the factory bring to mind the music of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada's new pride and joy musical outfit, The Sheepdogs. You see, when you're in these clean and beautiful old barns and sheds, your tour guides take you past the covered vats, where the whiskey magic's happening - where the mashed up corn and other ingredients are doing the dirty and fraternizing with the saps and the wood to become that smooth sippin' whiskey that is the king of the world, not just the toast of America. They urge you to move in closer to the tops of the lids and then they open and close them quickly, wafting the aromas from the still cooking mixtures. It's a smell that stays with you, a sweet fragrance that comes back to me swiftly, even now, in a den far away from that barn. The brain - or my brain - in its funny way of doing things, grabbed onto that nasal memory and threw it up onto a big screen in my head the first time that I heard a Sheepdogs song. It's a blast of pureness, of natural workings, of sounds the way they're supposed to sound when you have four fellows harmonizing and playing their instruments - in a garage, in an attic, in a bar, in an open field, in a barn out with the horses and the owls, the wolves and the chickens. Stripped down to their foundations, lead singer/guitarist Ewan Currie, guitarist Leot Hanson, bassist Ryan Gullen and drummer Sam Corbett form some kind of wonder, a group that spoils us, that gets us through a half bottle of Jack without even knowing and by then, we breathe the taste and smell the scent everywhere. It's a relaxing brand of southern rock, though it hails from Canadian soil, thousands of miles north of where we'd like to believe it originated from, along with the pit BBQs, Levon Helm, Elvis Pressley and the whiskey we claim as our very own.
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