Alison Hogan
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Alison Hogan

Victoria, British Columbia, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 2016 | SELF

Victoria, British Columbia, Canada | SELF
Established on Jan, 2016
Duo Folk Acoustic

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The very best of folk music evokes a feeling, not of nostalgia for, but a reckoning with a place and time that is lost to us. Those people old enough to remember Vancouver before the world was invited for Expo 86, would have described the city as a place you could live, afford, raise a family and at the same time, share space with and openly welcome those living on the margins, and hanging on the edge. Vancouver was a place where weirdness was not only accepted but cherished, even prized as a “Never mind him, he’s from Vancouver” badge of honour that was co-opted, hijacked and molded into something ugly and unrecognizable. Alison Hogan‘s third album of thirteen tracks: Songs From The Third Act is a reminder of what the west coast used to be; the memory of a city that cared about local artists, and celebrated local arts.

Songs From The Third Actis a stunning, sad, funny, sexy and lovely collection of songs. I made a few first observations while listening, trying to connect the dots between Alison Hogan’s music and my love of folk music. The overall feel and style made me think of Blue Rodeo, Rickie Lee Jones, Alison Krauss and, in the case of the sixth track, my favourite, “Doin’ All Right” Guy Clark, like “Man, Guy Clark could have written this song.” It has the same wonderful feel as Clark’s “Out In The Parking Lot.” Alison’s acoustic lead is great. And Charlie Hase’s dobro and pedal steel are top shelf. (Jerry Douglas dobro good.) Alison’s line “Cheap beer and Stetsons and Maybelline stares” is both funny and poignant in a folk singers lament to being boxed in by genre and the expectations of an audience.

The album opens on a completely different note, however, with the first track “All The Kings Horses.” The danger of a song like this is to slip into a maudlin clichéd stereotype but Alison writes about love in a very real way. The song is both painful and hopeful and I liked the allusion of humpty dumpty to the fragility of love and relationships and how damaging carelessness can be. The line “eyes the colour of old blue jeans” killed me as it portrayed an emotionally unavailable but not unlikeable man. There is a great bridge on this track and I love the Cajun soul of the accordion or as a street musician friend of mine in New Brunswick calls it: ”Dat Acordeen”

You get great musical whiplash from the second blues laden track “Laundromat Man.” This is a low down and dirty blues song, and while Alison’s voice slid sensually all over the song, I kept thinking of Bonnie Raitt. The honky-tonk piano is played with jazz talent and the slide guitar is right out of the Warren Haynes playbook. The song feels like it is straight up old school Kitsilano and is sexy as hell.

“Hearts On Fire” follows “Laundromat Man” and I loved the line “hearts on fire, leave more than ashes behind.” The song has a Rickie Lee Jones and Cowboy Junkies vibe and the song itself feels like it bends down into the canyon which Alison sings of. I had a problem with the “doo doo doo” on the fade out, but that is just a personal bias where I think, unless you’re Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson or The Temptations, you shouldn’t. “Charlie’s Tune” follows “Hearts On Fire” and is the most personal and vulnerable track on the album. With a wonderful rhyme scheme that is more poetic then lyric, the song is a beautiful lament and reminded me of the brilliant and underappreciated Garnet Rogers.

In “Pinto Pony” there is a beautiful interplay between voice and guitar and Alison Hogan’s virtuosity is on full display the subject matter doesn’t matter as much as this incredible interplay. The album ends with “Charlie’s Song Reprise” I felt in the reprise there was a better mix that the vocals were right up front and not buried in the wash.

Songs From Third Act is not your typical folk album, it goes beyond a generic genre label with the same intense introspection, empathy, honesty and craft that Townes Van Zandt defined and dared anyone to emulate. Few do. Alison Hogan does.

Adam Dunbar - Canadian Beats


Discography

1977: On the Rocks 10-song cassette
1980: Back to LA/Come on Home (45 rpm single)
1980: Rough Cuts 12-song cassette
1983: Rough Cuts II - The Sequel 10-song cassette
1984: Another Girl 45 RPM single (English + Japanese)
1995: Hogan Sings Holiday 12-song jazz CD
2018: Songs From The Third Act (10 song CD)

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Bio

Alison Hogan is a veteran west coast singer/songwriter returning to performance after a long hiatus.

Starting out in Vancouver clubs and coffeehouses in the 1970s, over the course of her career she has opened for Phil Ochs, Peter Yarrow, Jose Feliciano, and Stephane Grappelli. As part of the seminal gypsy-jazz quartet The Kitsilano Kat Kickers, she played the first years of the Vancouver Folk Festival before going on to record her original material, releasing two indie cassette albums and a synth-pop single in English and Japanese for MCA/Universal. Her songs have charted with covers by indie country artists Lynne Taylor Donovan, Nikki Cousins, Anna Beaumont, and BC bluegrassers Tumbleweed.

Her discography also makes a foray into the jazz realm with a CD of Billie Holiday covers, First Takes, with Hogan Sings Holiday, featuring Tom Keenlyside (sax + clarinet), Miles Black (piano), Brent Gubbels (bass), Ron Thompson (guitar) and Craig Scott (drums). The ensemble will hit the bandstand for a reunion in Vancouver in 2019.

In 2016 Alison began work on her first full-length album in many years. Songs From the Third Act was recorded with drummer/producer Shawn Soucy (One Horse Blue, Alibi) at Spirit Studio in Surrey, BC, and engineer Brian Campbell (Powder Blues, Ferron) at Wizard Sound Services in Vancouver.

The collection showcases the varied genres of Alison's writing, encompassing country, blues, and acoustic roots and features a stellar lineup of Soucy (drums and percussion), Brent Gubbels (bass), Darryl Havers (piano/accordion), Nolan Murray (fiddle) and pedal steel master Charlie Hase. 

Described by one reviewer as "a stunning, sad, funny, sexy and lovely collection of songs" evoking such legendary songwriters as Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt and Garnet Rogers, the album is enjoying airplay on Canadian campus stations and folk/roots radio in the USA.

Alison is looking forward to participating in a three-week Singer Songwriter residency at the Banff Centre in 2019. She performs live solo, or as a duo or trio with Charlie Hase and Brent Gubbels.

 


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