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Kelly Hogan | Because It Feel Good (Bloodshot)
Yippy-kai-oh-kai-aye, she's back and the socks are off, judging by the back cover. After the rip-roaring 'Beneath The Country Underdog' album of last year, Georgia's greatest (female) export has returned home and gone back to school too. Recorded in Athens, with some of the vocals done in a boys locker room, the record also finds Kelly revisiting the sound of her first solo record, 'The Whistle That Only Dogs Can Hear', made in the days before she absconded to Chicago. Gone is the predominantly country feel from last year, instead we have spooky guitars, reverb soaked vocals, ethereal backing and barmy violins, the latter courtesy of Andrew Bird. Most of the tracks are covers, but, as before, it's impossible to tell what ones as Kelly takes every song and wraps herself around it, cooing sweetly into its ear until it succumbs to her charm, sighing as it does so, to become hers. When she sings I'll Go To My Grave Loving You you believe her as she floats around a disembodied banjo and bass, even harmonising with herself beautifully. On Strayed she sounds full of pity, pleading for mercy as Bird whips up a veritable orchestra on his violin and in the end it's just those two, the rest of the band collapsing at the crescendo. It's a beautiful moment and just one of many. There's a Ronettes feel to No, Bobby Don't, a tale of good girl/bad boy romance performed with a staccato delivery that outpaces Mike Burlington's drums and Andrew's soaring playing. Determined not to be pigeonholed, either by style or time, the album changes with each track, but without being disjointed. Not an easy task, but they make it sound so when Speedfreak Lullaby wafts in after that rocker. Kelly and the boys are swamped by hiss, or is it mist with her voice shining through, leaving you like a rabbit in its beacon. Heavy sighs all around. She switches to Torch mode on Please Don't Leave Me Lonely, pure 60's sounding with more wonderful Hogan harmonies. Dang, this girl can sing so well she can even back herself. The joyous Sugarbowl has her providing 'mock trumpets' to add to the fun and it IS, Kelly can be heard enjoying herself and it's totally infectious, so expect audience horn participation at live shows soon. It's back to earth with Living Without You, her voice fragile quiet until the end when it roars for the last word, showing that this is an analogue recording by distorting the tape! As with Country Underdog the end comes too soon and as she sings "I don't know what to say, but I pray that you'll stay with me now, that I need you so, love you so, more than anyone will know" it sums up how I feel when I hear her sing. I guess my secret is out now, but I'm proud because, Kelly, it sound good too.

Laurence Arnold
CWAS #9 - Winter 2002