Release Date: Jun 5, 2012
Record label: Anti
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Country-Rock
Kelly Hogan is a go-to indie-rock vet whose sweet-tea vocals have shorn up records by Neko Case and plenty of others. Her second solo set conjures Seventies AM radio country 'n'soul with songs commissioned from genre outliers – M. Ward, Andrew Bird, Robyn Hitchcock, Vic Chesnutt, Stephen Merritt. It's meta Loretta Lynn, played straight; when she wails on the faintly arch title track, the pain sounds like no joke.
Not only does I Like to Keep Myself in Pain reaffirm Kelly Hogan’s unrivaled ear for heady, challenging material, but it also cements her status as an interpretive singer with few equals. Hogan’s song choices reflect a breadth of knowledge of pop music that spans genres and eras, and she has a real gift for knowing when a song is a natural fit both for her voice and for her progressive approach to country music: On previous albums, she roped songs by Randy Newman and the Magnetic Fields into the country genre, and she plumbs the catalogues of artists like Andrew Bird and M. Ward for material here.
Kelly Hogan is one of the finest and most musically astute vocalists working in American popular music, but this seems to be better understood by her peers than the general public. Hogan cut a pair of fine albums for Bloodshot Records near the turn of the millennium, but they failed to find an audience, and she has since become best known for her fine work as Neko Case's backing vocalist, while she's performed with an array of artists from Tortoise, the Drive-By Truckers, and the Mekons to Amy Ray, Jakob Dylan, and Mavis Staples. Given her busy schedule working with others, it seemed an open question if Hogan would ever get around to making another record of her own, but I Like to Keep Myself in Pain not only puts her in the spotlight where she belongs, it's an instant classic that's as strong as any record that she's appeared on, no small achievement given her résumé.
Kelly Hogan is not the kind of singer who has many casual fans, only devotees. Nor has her music career followed anything like a straight line. Indie guitarist, radio DJ, backup singer, bartender—she’s done it all. Along the way, she’s worked with musical heavy hitters such as Neko Case, Andrew Bird, Vic Chesnutt and John Wesley Harding, but rarely in a way that grabbed the spotlight for herself.
Rootsy, occasionally retro, country/pop chanteuse Hogan follows her long time friend Neko Case (who she sings background vocals for) by moving label affiliation from Bloodshot to Anti- and delivers a stirring debut for the imprint. On her first solo release in eleven years, and fourth overall, she tackles 12 covers from predominantly indie oriented artists such as Stephin Merritt (the Magnetic Fields), the late Vic Chesnutt, Jon Langford, M. Ward, Robbie Fulks and even includes one of her own compositions.
With Hogan, “Pain” worth the wait When Kelly Hogan’s last solo record was released, Ground Zero was still smoldering in Manhattan. More than a decade has slipped by since then, but in the meantime Hogan hasn’t suffered from lack of work. Moving from Atlanta to Chicago in the late ‘90s after formative stints with underground bands The Jody Grind and The Rock*A*Teens, she’s kept busy playing solo singer/songwriter gigs, fronting jazz bands and singing live and on records with Will Oldham, Jon Langford, Neko Case and many more.
Most of the 13 songs on Kelly Hogan's new album, her first in over a decade, were written for her by famous songwriters who also happen to be her friends. The jaw-dropping list includes M. Ward, Vic Chestnutt, Jon Langford, Robyn Hitchcock, Andrew Bird and the Magnetic Fields, among others. Her backing band, meanwhile, features R&B legends Booker T.
One of my first real Chicago experiences after moving to the city a few years ago was seeing Kelly Hogan take the stage during a Drive-By Truckers show. On an encore of "Angels and Fuselage", she sounded like one of the angels welcoming Ronnie Van Zandt to rock'n'roll heaven. Still, she didn't look quite comfortable up there, and slipped unceremoniously out of sight before the song ended, as though upstaging another singer might be the most unforgivable offense imaginable.
Over the past decade, Kelly Hogan has mostly devoted her amazing voice to other people's bands. Since her last album (Because It Feel Good, released on Bloodshot Records in 2001), the Atlanta, GA native has been backing musicians like Neko Case, Jakob Dylan and Mavis Staples, enhancing their music with her warm, expressive vocals. For her new album, friends and colleagues returned Hogan's favours by writing songs especially for her.