Friday, 15 May 2015

Police Dog Hogan - Hare and Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham. Thursday 14th May 2015

Following a false start towards the end of last year, a West Midlands audience finally got the opportunity for find out what Police Dog Hogan are all about. Folks in the South of England and various other locations dotted around the country already knew that they are one of the hottest live bands on the UK roots circuit, so it was a case of getting up to speed. A highly credible turnout at the Hare and Hounds for a new band in town saw this multi-instrumental  assembly firing on all cylinders and fully eager to ride the waves generated by the band’s all-consuming rousing stage performance. This was Police Dog Hogan doing what comes natural and deliver a totally authentic high octane entertaining performance.

It has been around six or seven months since the band released their third full length album and many of the songs are quickly becoming embedded favourites in the set list. This is hardly surprising for a record richly populated with tunes reflecting their live presence. ‘From the Land of Miracles’, ‘West Country Boy’ and ‘Thunderheads’ head the fast flowing numbers from an album titled WESTWARD HO which frontman James Studholme informed those present was influenced by his own South West roots. Critics heralded the record as symbolically representing the strategic extremity of the British Isles and the last staging post before the Eastern Seaboard of the USA. You don’t have to exert too much energy in discovering the Americana context to Police Dog Hogan, to the extent that their very British slant on the genre has been presented to industry bods in Nashville.

While the band show little refrain in hiding their American heroes via covers of Steve Earle’s ‘Galway Girl’ and the immortal Hank Williams classic ‘I Saw the Light’, it is perhaps their take on home grown observations that give Police Dog Hogan their identity. ‘Crackington’, ‘No Wonder She Drinks’ and ‘Fraserburgh Train’ all have distinct origins and what could be more British than the poignant ‘A Man Needs a Shed’. Maybe further Midlands gigs will get the crowd more actively celebrating the band’s ode to low class drinking in ‘Shitty White Wine’, but they were reciprocally vociferous in giving a helping hand to the cleverly written song ‘Burnt’.

For this evening Police Dog Hogan was operating as a seven piece unit with James (guitar/lead vocals), Tim Dowling (banjo) and Eddie Bishop (fiddle) assuming a more focal role. Shahen Galichian (accordion/harmonium), Michael Giri (drums) and Don Bowen (bass) each had their moments to individually shine in addition to a collective effort propelling the theory of the sum being greater. The numerous trumpet interludes from Emily Norris give the sound a finer touch and whose presence accentuates the band’s explicit diversity. The buoyant outlook of this part time band is a refreshing trait alongside a stage show awash with humour and just sheer gratefulness to share their passion with a paying public. The joviality peaked with a touch of Anglo-French rambling in ‘La Moutarde du Dijon’ and the desire of the band to evolve lay in a new song ‘Black Road’ thus showing a stated intent to continually update their song writing repertoire.

Enthusiastic local performer Rich McMahon was a popular choice to open the evening with a mix of covers and originals fuelled by a combination of Irish and Midland roots. This pro-active and purposeful singer-songwriter has forged a growing reputation on the local circuit and he no doubt gained a few more admirers from this three figure Hare and Hounds gathering with his brash brand of observational songs.

Now Police Dog Hogan has conquered the West Midlands, world domination is a less daunting prospect. In the meantime the band will continue to make forays around the country demonstrating the high value that can surface from the art of enterprising song and the extracted inspiration from roots instrumentation. This theory will be endorsed by each member of a satisfied Birmingham crowd and justify the decision of the Kitchen Garden Events team to promote the evening.

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