Police Dog Hogan – Overground (2022)

Posted by Green on January 13, 2022
in folk

320 | FLAC

Written and recorded both before and during the lockdowns of 2020, Police Dog Hogan’s fifth album ‘Overground’ draws, in part, on the enforced isolation while others have a less specific inspiration. Perhaps fittingly as one of the first albums to arrive in the new year, it opens with a ringing note of hope in Hold On, Tim Dowling’s banjo, Alistair Harding’s solid drum beat, and Emily Norris’s trumpet flourishes, driving things along as James Studholme sings of lions roaring and holding on to love when things get rough.

That upbeat exultation continues with Westward Ho!, continuing their habit of title tracks of the previous album typically making a belated appearance as a simple piano backed intro gives way to a surging, chorus-belting number about returning home with Shahen Galichian’s keys providing the momentum. Opening with Eddie Bishop’s mandolin frills, Might As Well Be Love charts a slow/fast tempo, the latter appositely summed up by the lyric’s use of the word tachycardic, the medical term for a heart rate over 100 beats per minute, Studholme reasonably arguing that if you’ve got to die of something, then love seems a good way to go.

They finally take a breather with Kathleen O’Hare, a gentle acoustic reflection on an unlikely first meeting (woman helps a bloke who’s been punched out) that led to a long marriage, warm trumpet notes embellishing the mood. They then kick the pace back up as the brass jump-starts Barcelona’s playful crowd singalong with a rolling barroom rhythm as a delusional loner fantasises about finding the woman of his dreams in Spain.

It hits the midway mark with Here Comes Crow which, features field recordings, plucked strings and tinny percussion. The song is inspired by a crow that kept revisiting Studholme, “He woke me every morning at dawn with his tap tap tapping, moving sequentially around the house“.

Disappear shifts musical mood to a more spooked Americana, banjo accompanying the narrative’s journey into the frozen north with a lyric of storms and ominous strangers that makes passing reference to the film There Will Be Blood. Things remain more subdued for the fiddle-backed romanticism of the lyrically self-explanatory I Need Your Love (from which the album takes its title). Then, the accordion and piano-accompanied slow swayer Funfair On Shepherd’s Bush Green recounts a brief youthful encounter that never blossomed, distances apart, and bridges burned, setting up thoughts on what might have been. Rippling on puttering percussion, fiddle and acoustic guitar lines, reflection and nostalgia (“we lived through simpler days/We watched the seasons go”) also haunt the folksy Americana flavours of the vocally dusty and wood-stained Cage Of Stars with its echoes of Gordon Lightfoot and the young Dylan, again drawing on belief in love and themes of finding comfort and hope for better days.

Steel guitar puts in an appearance for the penultimate Room In That Bottle, a slow waltzing, slightly slurred barroom song of shared loneliness and drowning sorrows (“but somehow they’ve learnt how to swim”), ending on a slow-building spare anthemic Celtic-tinged piano ballad Let Me Rest My Eyes (a final love song), climaxing with swelling instrumentation and big harmonies before its quiet ebb.

Since they made their album debut back in 2010, Police Dog Hogan have been building a reputation as one of the country’s finest live bands and folk-country acts, their rousing melodies and affecting lyrics setting them alongside the likes of Merry Hell and Southern Companion. Overground is their finest hour yet.

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