The eight piece Police Dog Hogan are a perfect example of unassuming country folk played with a sly grin and a slightly right on stance, mildly left wing and prepared to champion causes. Above all however is their obvious delight at the opportunity to play together some of their own favourite music in the hope that some others might also enjoy it. They remind me at times of The Colourblind James Experience, eclectic in their influences, never too serious but serious fun.
Westward Ho! is their third album and it gathers English and Irish folk influences ranging from the Oysterband (whose sometime bass player, Al Scott, produced) to The Pogues. While there are American name checks in Buffalo and Judgement Day is a fine fiddle laced hoe down it’s the common or garden English sentiments of West Country Boy and the sublime A Man Needs A Shed that stand out.
The opening song Thunderheads is a glowering ballad concerning an orphan, square pegged and unable to fit in the round holes offered while One Size Fits All has an insouciant swagger as it shrugs off any idea of wallowing in heartache with fiddles and banjo gaily bowing and plucking. West Country Boy is a Pogues like band odyssey though Devon with the protagonist fond of his curried pasties from an all night petrol station. It’s great fun and tailor made for maximum audience fun in a live setting and the band revisit this toe tapping feel in the closing song No Wonder That She Drinks. St. Lucie’s Day is a much gentler England, pastoral and reflective as it builds up with massed backing singers, there’s a modern day Thomas Hardy feel to it. Ethan Frome seems to be set in the deep south west of England, land of surfers smoking spliffs through red wine lips looking for the carefree life while Crackington transports a standard American small time gangster to the same area (and a first here for Blabber’n’Smoke as we had to use Google maps to check out all of these place names). A Man Needs A Shed perhaps reflects the average age of the band here (most of the members won’t see forty again) but it conjures up thoughts that this was what Loudon Wainwright might be writing about if he lived in a semi detached in suburbia. Mention should be made of the song Home, a collaboration between the band and Music In Prisons charity. Several ex prisoners assist here on a song that is melancholic and sweeping with a spoken rap seamlessly inserted into the song. It’s a powerful piece.