Big Hogg hail from Glasgow, and as far as I can tell are a relatively new band. Their self-titled debut album came out last summer, and is a fetching mix of styles. The syncopated jazz-pop of opener When We Were Young is followed by the more rocky and psychedelic Dog People, which features a psychedelic spoken word passage and an Alex Harvey-esque lead vocal, and also the first appearance of the small but effective brass section. Here, the wind to blows forward and the wind blows back, the whole shebang recalling blues-infused early Magic Band before it got very strange indeed.
An album high point is Turn To Prayer, an old school R&B belter beamed at the unwary listener straight from the heart and soul of Glasgow’s Barrowlands roughhouse, and it will put a smile on your furrowed fizzog, yes, siree! This song is imbued with the spirit of Stone The Crows, and classic pub rock as exemplified by Brinsley Schwarz. The lead voice on this one has one of those great cracked white soul voices you just don’t hear any more. Singing in tandem with his male and female vocal companions, the result conjures a choir of Frankie Miller, Maggie Bell and Chappo. Marvellous! The song changes tack completely in the middle, turning on Sophie Sexon’s semi-spat cynical declamation “When I see you lying there, my head turns to fucking prayer” before once again sailing off, nine sheets to the wind to eventually find redemption in a contemplative pay-off. All in all, a classy piece of arranging.
Varying the pace once again, this fine band take their foot off the gas, and without shuddering to a halt slip into the dreamy Canterbury vibe present in Rabbit Plateau and Duke Of Shakespeare Street. Here, Sophie Sexon takes over the lead vocals, her voice weaving through copious amounts of effortless harmonising, sundry flutes and plucked acoustic guitar and liquid lead lines; all rather lovely.
Usually, too much track by track description for a dull review doth make, but as this band are probably as new to you as they are to me, it seems worthwhile for once. There’s a great incongruous but somehow fitting psychedelic guitar break in Bad Salad Boogie, and Lucky And Bobby swings along in fine finger poppin’ style.
Next up is Remember Handsome Tony?, which witnesses the small but efficient brass section taking centre stage for a slow funky shuffle through more classic R&B, and again Frankie Miller is here in spirit, with a dash of Blood Sweat and Tears. These are rarely heard influences and because of that, something of a treat. The end section features some great Hammond work from Stephen Mulhearn which for me is the icing on the cake.
The Executioner has the feel of an old folk song, with Sophie’s melancholy tinged vocal leading the way. Throughout the album there are more nods to the Canterbury vibe, and the final track For R.W. acknowledges that influence. Obviously you don’t need telling who “R.W.” is, do you? One of the male singers takes the lead on this, his voice fittingly fragile over a synth drone that begins not unlike a harmonium, accompanied by a lone picked acoustic guitar, a respectful homage to our National Treasure.
Despite being quite stylistically varied, Big Hogg all hangs together rather well. It is a complete package, and I’ll take this opportunity to drop in a mention for the rather nice cover painting on the LP version, repeated on the tri-fold out CD cover, by Julia Jeffrey. This is an album in the old, and dare I say it proper sense, being crammed full as it is of good songs, none of which outstay their welcome. Thankfully with the decline of the CD bands no longer feel tempted to fill every minute of the 80 available on that format, and now the digital platform is dominant, and with the resurgence of good old vinyl, albums have returned to a more sensible length. Any album over an hour long is too long in my ’umble opinion, and this little beauty is a very sensible 47 minutes of good fun listening, being just the right length to leave you satisfied but simultaneously desiring more. Not only that, but Big Hogg is as unpretentious as can be and an instant remedy to some of the over-serious noise I, and no doubt you too dear reader tend to gravitate towards.
All that is left for me to say is buy this, now!
01. When We Were Young (4:10)
02. Dog People (5:31)
03. Turn To Prayer (5:50)
04. Rabbit Plateau (3:53)
05. Duke Of Shakespeare Street (3:59)
06. Bad Salad Boogie (4:06)
07. Lucky And Bobby (2:53)
08. Remember Handsome Tony? (4:57)
09. The Executioner (6:05)
10. For R.W. (6:11)
Total time – 47:38
Justin Lumsden – Electric & Acoustic Guitars, Vocals
Richard Merchant – Trumpet, Cornet & Tenor Horn
Ross McCrae – Trombone
Sophie Sexon – Flute & Vocals
Alasdair C Mitchell – Bass Guitar & Vocals
Nick Gaughan – Drums & Percussion
Ian Sexon – Spoken Word (track 2)
Sybren Renema – Skronk Baritone (tracks 2, 3, 6 & 9)
Lynsey Payne – Alto Sax (tracks 2, 3, 8 & 9)
Stephen Mulhearn – Hammond Organ & Fender Rhodes Piano (tracks 2, 3, 4, 6, 8 & 9)
Record Label: Neon Tetra Records
Catalogue#: TETRA XS18
Year Of Release: 2015