The first time I saw Kelly Hogan, she was onstage with Neko Case at Bimbo's. As a rabid Neko Case fan, I had already heard the smooth syrup of Hogan's voice doing backup duty on Blacklisted and other recordings. I recognized her when I saw her, and I even knew she had a dirty mind, from scouring the backwater Internet country-music-girl interview archives. But I still wasn't prepared.
In a technical sense, Hogan's voice belongs to a different realm than Case's -- you wouldn't want to compare Exene Cervenka to Jessye Norman. But there they were onstage together, and I couldn't help but notice that Kelly Hogan can sing circles around Neko Case. This is mostly a moot point (see above), but damned if it's not true, and that's saying a lot.
Like most of the Bloodshot Records gang, Hogan got bored with punk sometime in the 1990s and turned to country. She mined its self-destructive, problem-with-authority past for material and ignored contemporary Nashville's crappy hick-pop. On albums like Beneath the Country Underdog and Because It Feel Good, she paid critically acclaimed homage to the likes of Johnny Paycheck and the Statler Brothers.
August 29 at 8:30 p.m.
Admission is $12-14
Something sets her apart from the crowd, though: Country music is a lot like punk in that anyone can play it and most people can sound OK at it after a while. But if you have actual talent, country music gives you a better chance to show it off, and Hogan's instrument, like I said, kicks most other singers' asses -- hard.
Think Patsy Cline, because that's what came to my mind back at Bimbo's. "Holy shit," I thought, "a lady could do anything with a voice like that. Somebody get me Owen Bradley on the line." Cline's producer famously invented a new way to arrange country music just so people could hear her better; this would be entirely appropriate for Hogan. Screw DIY production scruff: Let us hear every breath, every throb, every note, even more.