Tuesday, August 21, 2012


The Canadian Country Music Awards are coming up Sunday, Sept. 9 in Saskatoon, and one act I'm hoping for is up for Roots Artist of the Year.  Sean Hogan put out a killer album this year called Phoenix, which I'm currently loving.  It's a great example of how to work in the usually conservative country genre, and still stay true to your own style.  Hogan specifically gave up trying to fit into the country format, and made the music he wanted to for this album, and it worked out to be a gem.

You'll find a bunch of different styles on the disc, and certainly some music that was able to find a niche in radio.  Lead single Travel Plans is a nifty one, with good lyrics far away from the cliches, and just the title alone is smart.  But fitting in mariachi-style horns was a deft touch, it fit with the vacation topic, and stood out from anything else on the playlist.  Elsewhere you'll hear R'n'B stylings on Ain't You Got Better Things, complete with more horns, bluesy slide licks, and soul singers behind.  It drips of Lyle Lovett, and that's a grand thing.  We Never Had To Say Goodbye is in a mellow groove, a grand duet with former Fleetwood Mac singer Bekka Bramlett, sleek soul, the singers in tight harmony.  The title cut is a slide guitar-driven medium tempo rocker, Tennessee for sure, but Memphis, not Nashville.

Oh, if only all the country music was like this.  When he gets to more commercial tracks, they are still smart and different, and you don't feel like you've heard it all before.  Kudos.  There's also another reason I'm pulling for him.  Hogan was diagnosed with oral pharyngeal cancer last year, after the album was completed.  He endured months of chemo and radiation, and thankfully got a clean bill of health around the same time the album came out.  A phoenix, indeed.

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