Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
elly Hogan has stood a few feet from fame for awhile now. Yes, the singer released a few albums on esteemed country/roots label Bloodshot, but her last was way back in 2001. In recent years, Hogan has been known far more for being the dependable back-up singer for Neko Case.
Thanks to an association with a label honcho at Case's record label, Anti-, Hogan found herself recording songs almost all written by others and released "I Like to Keep Myself in Pain" in June.
Not only is credit due for picking a swath of songs suited to Hogan's singing abilities (which are many), but she also easily and ably demonstrated that the new disc was no fluke when it came to dishing it out live.
Hogan kicked things off with the title track, a Robyn Hitchcock song. With vocals mixed high here and throughout, Hogan nailed the song, picking it up at one point musically and letting loose vocally.
The quality stayed high throughout with songs such as Andrew Bird's We Can't Have Nice Things and Sleeper Awake, a song with pop, punk and jangle all part of the mix from John Wesley Harding.
Hogan went softer and slowed it down with Stephen Merritt of The Magnetic Fields with Plain White Roses, a more dyed-in-the-wool country song.
Hogan also got soulful a few times particularly with Jon Langford's Haunted, perhaps the best song on her new CD.
Perhaps mindful of her own situation in recent years, an easy-going, very affable Hogan let her backing players breathe as well onstage. Drummer Gerald Dowd stepped out front to single Margaret Ann Rich's (Charlie's wife) Life's Little Ups and Downs to good measure. Hogan also showed she knew her way around a Rich song by singing Pass On By as part of what she described as a "two-fer Tuesday" treat of two consecutive Rich songs.
Dowd demonstrated the ability to set a good country beat with not a lot of equipment. Bassist Nora O'Connor (she once upon a time - 2004 actually - released "Til the Dawn" on Bloodshot) stepped to the fore as well for her version of Fleetwood Mac's That's Alright. And guitarist James Elkington was adept at steely, country licks throughout, adding a dose of skiffle when Hogan called for it.
With an album like "I Like To Keep Myself in Pain" and performances like this, there is no need for Hogan to be standing in the shadows any longer. Her time is now.
Chris Mills of Brooklyn (like the others, though, he once hailed from Chicago) opened with a solo acoustic set. Mills delivered them with a vocal intensity and passion.