POLICE DOG HOGAN – Westward Ho! (Union Music Store UMS007)

PDH3Westward Ho! is the third album by Police Dog Hogan – or “the band that I’m in” if you’re a regular reader of Tim Dowling’s Guardian Weekend column. Dowling downplays his band in the cause of humour, making it sound like it’s him and a couple of mates from the pub continually amazed that they’ve got a gig. In fact, Police Dog Hogan is an accomplished seven-piece band – or eight if you count trumpeter Emily Norris who is pretty much a fixture.

They play an English style of Americana with a solid foundation of bass, drums and guitar topped with banjo, fiddle, mandolin and accordion. The Englishness comes from literate lyrics and the subject matter. ‘A Man Needs A Shed’ wouldn’t mean much in the mid-west until you explain that British houses don’t have vast basements, the one bit of transatlantic culture that I actually envy. PDH have also created that great rarity, a song based on an English place name that works: ‘Crackington’ is a tiny coastal village in Cornwall. They pull off the same trick with ‘West Country Boy’ which cites both Ilfracombe and Fowey.

The album kicks off with ‘Thunderheads’, a rags to rags story sung by James Studholme in the style that Johnny Cash would have adopted had he come from Berkshire. It’s a classic piece of country-rock and it’s followed by ‘One Size Fits All’ and you’re in a roadhouse just outside Memphis listening to songs of heartache and drinking one too many beers.

‘Buffalo’ is in the style of a lost song from 19th century America and I was half convinced that it was authentic, which shows how good the writing is. “I made up songs out of snake-oil and pain” sings James in ‘From The Land Of Miracles’ and, you know, he really does. You might get the impression that I rather like this album and you’d be right. It’s one I could happily keep on repeat and they come by very rarely.

Dai Jeffries

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Artists’ website: http://www.policedoghogan.com/

The official ‘Thunderheads’ video:

POLICE DOG HOGAN ANNOUNCE NEW ALBUM

PoliceDogHogan2POLICE DOG HOGAN
Westward Ho!
Union Music Store – October 6th

Listen to their new track ‘Thunderheads’:

With 8 members in the full line-up and instruments including guitar, accordion, banjo, mandolin, fiddle and trumpet, Police Dog Hogan draw their influences from many different wells. You could call it Americana, country-folk, folk-pop or even urban bluegrass, but it’s difficult to do justice to the sheer range of styles this band can bend to its will.

Their exuberant  mix of country-fried heartbreakers, belting anthems, foot-stomping singalongs and souvenir tea towels made them a firm favourite on the festival circuit since forming in 2009.  “They’re one of my bands to watch,” says Radio 2 DJ Johnnie Walker. “Great songs, great musicians, and their live shows are really, really good fun.”

Police Dog Hogan’s second album, From the Land of Miracles, attracted praise from many quarters. “No one in their right mind would imagine that the band that play on the opening track ‘Better Go Now’ come from anywhere other than the heartland of America,” said Maverick magazine’s 5-star review. “But some of James Studholme’s intricate guitar playing comes straight out of the traditional English folk book and would make Richard Thompson proud.”

With an average age comfortably over 40 (23-year old trumpeter Emily Norris is something of an outlier), Police Dog Hogan offer more in the way of experience than innocence. While the members hold down a variety of what might be described as “day jobs” (their banjo player Tim Dowling is a writer and Guardian columnist; lead singer James Studholme runs an advertising production company), they take the music very seriously, and keep up a rigorous touring schedule, recently playing to sell-out crowds at Bush Hall, the Borderline and various venues across the UK, as well as festivals including Camp Bestival, Cornbury, Maverick and Kendal Calling.

This September the band are exporting their unique take on Americana to Nashville, playing two showcase gigs at the Americana Music Association awards. After that they return to the UK to play a string of dates in October, November and December.

Their third album Westward Ho! is due out on the influential Union Music Store label in the autumn. That title – part swashbuckling exhortation, part melancholy seaside postcard – goes some way toward encapsulating Police Dog Hogan’s sound: bold and infectious country-folk wedded to a wry, reflective and deeply English sensibility.

Westward Ho! is produced by the Oysterband’s Al Scott. “I loved Al’s production of the June Tabor & Oysterband’s Ragged Kingdom record, which I think is a classic,” says James Studholme. “He has a certain clarity and  attack, going right back to the Levellers. When I found out he was producing a new CD for our label mates Hatful of Rain, working with him suddenly sounded like a possibility. He was busy touring with Oysterband, but we were prepared to wait.”

Among its songs of hard won experience, Westward Ho! includes the track Home, a collaboration between Police Dog Hogan and the Music in Prisons charity. This version of Home came about as the result of a joint live gig with Platform 7 – a band made up of ex-prisoners under the wing of Music in Prisons – and was recorded with the aid of several members of the group.

“We’d seen Platform 7 perform,” says Tim Dowling, “and had long talked of doing a show together, but I don’t think any of us were prepared for the impact this song had on the audience. When it came to recording it, we knew that was the version we wanted.”

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