Hot Streak (2015) by The Winery Dogs is a masterpiece of virtuoso simplicity

Rock supergroup The Winery Dogs, consisting of Richie Kotzen on lead vocals & guitar, Mike Portnoy on drums, and Billy Sheehan on bass, released their sophomore release Hot Streak on September 23 in Japan and October 2 worldwide. The album includes 13 rock songs and picks up the melodic and ‘athletic-instrumentalist’ style the band established on their debut album.

The opener, Oblivion, is a uptempo rock song characterised by the trio’s virtuosity. Unisono licks rock the listener’s headphones like a melodic typewriter. Nevertheless, clever arrangements make the song comfortable to listen to, even for aficionados of simple blues-rock tunes. Great opener!

Captain Love is a straight, mid-tempo blues-rock tune that leaves the listener with more air to breath, in comparison to the first song – a less busy song that gives space to Richie’s vocals and to the guitar riff.

The title-track, Hot Streak, picks up where the opener left off. A 16th-note riff accompanied by an uptempo groove gives way to a melodic pre-chorus that leads the listener to a catchy vocal hook line. The song knows how to go from a danceable groove-part to melodies and a sing-along hook. Can’t wait to hear this one live.

How Long keeps up the higher tempo and introduces the first more Mr. Big-esque melodramatic hooks – which I very much welcome and like. The guitar solo has the most soul of all solos up to this point. Furthermore, the arrangement allows the guitar solo to be enjoyed to its fullest, since Richie can solo over nothing other than the drums and the bass. At some point a subtle keyboard enter the picture, but that does not alter the atmosphere. Maybe my favourite song thus far.

Empire is a well-rounded and danceable blues-rock track, easy on the airs. No complex arrangements, phrasing or riffs, and very clever key changes. I can see this song work very well at concerts.

Fire is the first ballad on Hot Streak. The song is characterised by acoustic guitars, choir-like backings, and rather dramatic vocals. Definitely a song that could get mainstream radio-airplay. I like it.

Ghost Town cranks up the tempo but keeps the dramatic mood of Fire on high. Billy Sheehan and Mike Portnoy ride a straight uptempo 8th-note groove, while Richie Kotzen’s guitars create a mystical atmosphere with dreamy sounds. The interlude cracks the window and gives space to a breakdown before the band goes into uptempo again. A very strong song.

The Bridge slows it down a notch, but keeps the energy on high. The band juggles melodies à la Mr Big with more pentatonic blues-rock riffs and does a good job with that. The song has a great blend of different music spices in it and becomes very rich in musical flavour – if you get what I’m trying to depict. And, check out the guitar solo. Richie starts with a crazy shred that flows into a beautiful melody. Another favourite track of mine on here.

War Machine is a no-bullshit uptempo rock song characterised by a simple but effective stop-and-go riff. The chorus sticks out from all choruses to this point, because of its – again – no-bullshit melody, which is underlined by beautiful harmonies. A song that deserves a ‘Wow!’-shout at this point. A rock masterpiece of simplicity.

Spiral starts with a straight drum groove by Mike Portnoy and an intriguing bass tapping by Billy Sheehan. Richie Kotzen’s spherical guitar sounds and his charismatic voice round up the verse that take the listener my the rhetoric hand and takes them on a journey on a musical spiral. Even though the song seems to stick to a monotonous feel, it actually plays with different levels and features of dynamics. Around 3:35 Mike gives a kick to the dynamics and brings in a more brachial drums level. Spiral brings an unexpected but definitely extremely welcome musical colour on the album. Hands down, my favourite song on this album up to this point.

Devil You Know is what I by know would consider a typical song on Hot Streak. Nevertheless, we need to add: a typical but great song. Easy on the ears, still very interesting to listen to.

Think It Over, on the other hand, is a rather untypical song on this album. At least in the beginning. The song is introduced by keys, not guitar. Also, the band tunes it down in regard to energy quite a bit, which is a good thing, though, after 11 high-energy songs. Think It Over is a easy to listen to feel-good song and is bringing a smile on my face while I’m listening to it and typing these words. Nicely done.

The album’s closing song, The Lamb, combines all characteristics and facets of the album in one song. The uptempo groove underlines a blues-rock guitar riff that is led by strong vocal melodies, and the arrangements of the song provide the listener with different levels of dynamics, as well as breakdowns and guitar sounds. Interestingly enough, the song works very well. Maybe, after having heard all these facets during the past 12 songs, The Lamb is the summary or conclusion that encompasses and recounts the entire story. In any way, for me it works and makes me end the listening experience of this album on a high note.

My final judgement for this wonderful piece of rock music by the Misters Sheehan, Portnoy, and Kotzen: Hot Streak is a masterpiece of virtuoso simplicity.

Sebastiano Mereu

YouTuber + host of the #FHTZ online music show with co-producer @simonkurt + marketing & digital content producer + university lecturer