Album release: “Westward Ho!” by Police Dog Hogan
Label: Union Music Store
Release date: 6 October 2014
Listen: on official Police Dog Hogan website
With 8 members in the full line-up and instruments including guitar, accordion, banjo, mandolin, fiddle and trumpet, Police Dog Hogan draw their influences from many different wells. You could call it Americana, country-folk, folk-pop or even urban bluegrass, but it’s difficult to do justice to the sheer range of styles this band can bend to its will.
Their exuberant mix of country-fried heartbreakers, belting anthems, foot-stomping singlaongs and souvenir tea towels made them a firm favourite on the festival circuit since forming in 2009. “They’re one of my bands to watch,” says Radio 2 DJ Johnnie Walker. “Great songs, great musicians, and their live shows are really, really good fun.”
Police Dog Hogan’s second album, From the Land of Miracles, attracted praise from many quarters. “No one in their right mind would imagine that the band that play on the opening track Better Go Now come from anywhere other than the heartland of America,” said Maverick magazine’s 5-star review. “But some of James Studholme’s intricate guitar playing comes straight out of the traditional English folk book and would make Richard Thompson proud.”
With an average age comfortably over 40 (23-year old trumpeter Emily Norris is something of an outlier), Police Dog Hogan offer more in the way of experience than innocence. While the members hold down a variety of what might be described as “day jobs” (their banjo player Tim Dowling is a writer and Guardian columnist; lead singer James Studholme runs an advertising production company), they take the music very seriously, and keep up a rigorous touring schedule, recently playing to sell-out crowds at Bush Hall, the Borderline and various venues across the UK, as well as festivals including Camp Bestival, Cornbury, Maverick and Kendal Calling.
This September the band are exporting their unique take on Americana to Nashville, playing two showcase gigs at the Americana Music Association awards. After that they return to the UK to play a string of dates in October, November and December.
Their third album Westward Ho! is due out on the influential Union Music Store label in the autumn. That title - part swashbuckling exhortation, part melancholy seaside postcard - goes some way toward encapsulating Police Dog Hogan’s sound: bold and infectious country-folk wedded to a wry, reflective and deeply English sensibility.
Westward Ho! is produced by the Oysterband’s Al Scott. “I loved Al’s production of the June Tabor & Oysterband’s Ragged Kingdom record, which I think is a classic,” says James Studholme. “He has a certain clarity and attack, going right back to the Levellers. When I found out he was producing a new CD for our label mates Hatful of Rain (The Morning Key), working with him suddenly sounded like a possibility. He was busy touring with Oysterband, but we were prepared to wait.”
Among its songs of hard won experience, Westward Ho! includes the track Home, a collaboration between Police Dog Hogan and the Music in Prisons charity. This version of Home came about as the result of a joint live gig with Platform 7 - a band made up of ex-prisoners under the wing of Music in Prisons - and was recorded with the aid of several members of the group.
“We’d seen Platform 7 perform,” says Tim Dowling, “and had long talked of doing a show together, but I don’t think any of us were prepared for the impact this song had on the audience. When it came to recording it, we knew that was the version we wanted.”