Monday, 10 February 2014

Police Dog Hogan + Drew Holcomb - The Art Bar, Oxford Saturday 8th February 2014

Police Dog Hogan
If you like a good-time band blessed with an adeptness to replicate quality roots rock then look no further than Police Dog Hogan. Having finally caught part of their set at last year’s Maverick Festival, the next step was attend a full live show and what better way to experience their talents than a Saturday night in a small packed venue. The seven-piece combo were in top form entertaining an enthusiastic Oxford crowd with a thrilling blend of sounds encompassing such pretentious genre descriptors as alt-country-punk-bluegrass all in a traditional style with a contemporary twist.

There was probably no finer poignant moment in my early gig travels of 2014 than seeing a diverse aged audience singing and dancing along to ‘I Saw The Light’ as Police Dog tipped their hat to Sir Hank with their parting shot. This exhilarating climax crowned a superb evening which had not got off to the best of starts after misjudging the early on-stage time of supporting artist Drew Holcomb. The result left me only witnessing around ten minutes of his set which was disappointing as his latest album GOOD LIGHT had such fantastic reviews when released in the UK last year. However it barely needed ten minutes to realise good live Drew is and this only exasperated the frustration. A self-pact was made to ensure any follow up visit is seen next time to get the chance to see if all the songs are as excellent live as ‘Nothing But Trouble’.

Along with some well-chosen covers which also included a version of Steve Earle’s ‘Galway Girl’, Police Dog Hogan do not shy away from celebrating their own material which in my opinion peaks at a pair of diverse tracks taken from each of the band’s two full length releases to date. ‘Fraserburgh Train’ from 2012’s FROM THE LAND OF MIRACLES tells a tale based on the D-Day landings as well as showcasing the band’s folk influences and ability to craft a first class song. In contrast the infectious and humorous ‘Shitty White Wine’ sees the band take a lighter route with their sound and demonstrate they know how to engage a Saturday night crowd up for a good time.

Drew Holcomb
Police Dog Hogan pay homage to the world of string instrumentation with a tight knit sound comprising of fiddle, banjo, mandolin, lead, acoustic and bass guitar, not forgetting  some essential percussion and on this evening, a little bit of trumpet supplied by the solitary female artist appearing, Emily Norris. Band leader and chief vocalist James Studholme does a grand job as focal point but this is a group where no one would complain about the assertion that 'the sum is greater than the parts'. So take a bow Tim Dowling (banjo), Pete Robinson (lead guitar), Eddie Bishop (violin), Tim Jepson (mandolin), Adam Bennette (bass) and Michael Giri (percussion), together you know how to deliver a top show in a midst of not taking yourself too seriously. This relaxed atmosphere is probably the key to their appeal as well as having an array of excellent songs such as ‘Better Go Now’, ‘Fourteen Roses’ and ‘World Enough’.

A final credit must go to Empty Rooms Promotions for continuing to bring outstanding live music to Oxford and the surrounding counties with the re-branded Bullingdon pub now known as the Art Bar proving a popular Saturday venue for a fine act like Police Dog Hogan. If you get the chance to catch one of the band's live shows, albeit predominantly in the south of England, then disappointment won’t be on the agenda, likewise if Drew Holcomb returns to the UK in the future.He is definitely an artist to watch out for.

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