POLICE DOG HOGAN – Overground (Major Tom Records MTCD008)

OvergroundPolice Dog Hogan, for those of you yet to encounter them, combine British folk/pop/rock songwriting with overtones of Americana courtesy of Eddie Bishop’s fiddle and Tim Dowling’s banjo. Overground is their fifth full-length album and I have to say that it’s a belter. The material is all original and the songs have a unity of approach while still encompassing a variety of styles.

The opener, ‘Hold On’, is the perfect new year song – packed with optimism. It’s a joyous thing with driving banjo and glorious trumpet breaks from Emily Norris and it’s tempting to spin it again but next comes the equally splendid ‘Westward Ho!’. Confusingly it didn’t appear on the album of that name but it’s been worth waiting for, opening with piano by Shahen Galichian (although Dowling also plays keyboards so I could be wrong) and the band driving the song home.

‘Might As Well Be Love’ is a cross-threaded love song of the sort that Richard Thompson is so good at and is almost certainly the only song ever to include the word “tachycardic”. In another side-step it opens with guitar and mandolin and is overlaid with the band’s trademark massed harmonies. The pace slows again with the lovely ‘Kathleen O’Hare’, another love song that starts off inauspiciously but leads to a happy ending. I hope that it’s a true story.

‘Barcelona’ is a witty song about a possibly fanciful liaison and is surely destined to be a festival favourite although it may require a few extra choruses at the end. ‘Here Comes Crow’ is a simple song about a crow that also manages to be a little mysterious with appropriate field records and echoey percussion. ‘Disappear’ is about – actually I’m not totally sure. There’s life in the frozen northlands of somewhere – the banjo suggests the Yukon or Alaska – and strange portents of a coming storm. ‘I Need Your Love’ makes mention of the overground although there isn’t a song with that title on the record. On current form it may appear in 2028. It’s a sweet, gentle song that leads smoothly into ‘Funfair On Shepherd’s Bush Green’ with Police Dog Hogan back on home ground, telling a sad story of times long past. That nostalgic mood is picked up in ‘Cage Of Stars’.

There’s steel guitar on ‘Room In That Bottle’ courtesy of Dowling introducing a languid song of misery in a bar-room somewhere but before you reach for that razor blade, ‘Let Me Rest My Eyes’ brings us back to a good place.

There are very few albums that are all meat and no filler and this is one of them. James Studholme’s lead vocals are powerful or gentle as required and the bass of Don Bowen and Alistair Hamer’s drums keep everything together without being overpowering. Overground is an album you can listen to and then listen to again.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website: https://policedoghogan.com/

‘Hold On’ – official video:

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