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Beneath the Country Underdog

Kelly Hogan & The Pine Valley Cosmonauts

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Album Review

After former Jody Grind vocalist Kelly Hogan relocated to Chicago, she became a frequent (and welcome) presence on the recordings of a number of acts on the Windy City alt-country scene, popping up with everyone from Will Oldham to the Waco Brothers, and her first album for Bloodshot), Beneath the Country Underdog, makes it clear she has more than enough talent and authority to stand proudly beside anyone she's worked with in the past. Backed by the Pine Valley Cosmonauts (the Jon Langford-led group who invited Hogan to add her voice to a memorable take of "Drunkard's Blues" for their Bob Wills tribute album), Beneath the Country Underdog leans toward a country-accented approach as one would expect, but there's also more than a little R&B on deck, especially on the sassy "Wild Mountain Berries" and "I Don't Believe in You" (the latter complete with Stax-style horns), and Hogan's musical world view is broad enough to encompass covers of tunes by Johnny Paycheck, the Band, and the Magnetic Fields. And while this is Hogan's show, she displays the good sense to never overplay her hand; while she has a strong, clear voice and a superb sense of phrasing, she also has a welcome sense of restraint, and she knows when to quietly sneak through the nooks and crannies of a song just as surely as she knows when to belt it out hard and heavy. While covers dominate the album, the three tunes Hogan wrote with guitarist Andy Hopkins are fine stuff, and whether she's feeling blue or getting happy, Hogan never makes a wrong step when she steps in front of a mic. Quite simply, Kelly Hogan is among the finest female vocalist to emerge from the alt-country community, and Beneath the Country Underdog is a soul-satisfying delight well-worth listeners' attention.

Beneath the Country Underdog, Kelly Hogan & The Pine Valley Cosmonauts
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