All the critics just love Kelly Hogan. She sings so pretty and they all coo. Yeah, whatever. But, you know something? What a bunch of guys in brown Members Only jackets with an acre of skin between their eyebrows and their foreheads say doesn’t necessarily mean that people are gonna stand in the cold rain, waiting for a late soundcheck to finish up. But when the spotlight hits this Atlanta gal and Hogan hollers -- it’s usually four-deep at the bar and steamy flesh casserole in front of the stage -- it actually makes the dateless pointy heads know what they’re jabbering about.
Hogan began to hone her mellifluously spooky welter of torch songs and honky tonk anthems when she fronted the legendary peg-legged cabaret quartet, The Jody Grind, and then fanned the flames of her bummer-rock fixation while playing guitar for Orbisonic southern gothic punks, The Rock*A*Teens. She’s also kept her bad self busy with appearances on some clever and popular Bloodshot compilations, and she did a split single with fellow dirtybird Neko Case. That’s only served to whet some appetites, though. Folks have been wishin’ and hopin’ that Hogan would really whip it out again. Well, that time is now, and the place is here.
On Beneath the Country Underdog, Hogan gets the backing she deserves from insurgent country ass-kickers The Pine Valley Cosmonauts (featuring members of the Waco Brothers, The Mekons, and The Bottle Rockets) -- with made-in-Chicago production by misanthropic Welsh badboy, Jon Langford. These 11 tracks -- ranging from Hogan’s haunting originals, to covers of Johnny Paycheck, Willie Nelson, and The Magnetic Fields -- also feature a slew of hipster/hickster guest stars, including Neko Case, Edith Frost, John Wesley Harding, and Robbie Fulks.
When asked to name her musical influences for this effort, Hogan rattled off a list that went something like "Lotte Lenya, Charlie Rich, Howard Tate, and Ronnie Van Zant..." Well, that sounds like 39:49 minutes of sobbing, throbbing, balls-out, country soul to me, kids. Bring your chub to the club. Over and out.
"[There] lies a voice of such soulful depth and interpretive command that it all but demands to be measured for the tiara and elevated to the throne. In short, Underdog is star time..." Don McLeese, Salon.com
"Her taste is impeccable [and] the result is a song cycle of sorts that chronicles the highs and lows of love and romance -- the torment and pain of loss and the warm, intoxicating rush of bliss." John Floyd, Memphis Flyer