Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Karen Haglof-Western Holiday

True Morgan Music

"Imagine a distaff ZZ Top without the bluster" was the only selling point needed when it came to the solo debut from former Rhys Chatham and Band of Susans guitarist Karen Hagloff. Upon first listen I couldn't have agreed any more. And yet another perspective threw me for a loop of sorts. As "Western Holiday" opened with the spectacular title cut (a blues-buster rock and roller that is based on a real life wrangler that Karen knows!) my teenage son duly noted how the first few notes of the track sounded similar to the "Left 4 Dead" soundtrack! That had not dawned on me, but it's an interesting observation all it's own with Karen's full-length endeavor finding favor with my whole household. For this one-time Minneapolis native whose currently a New Yorker it all sounds so natural and seeing as this singer/songwriter is also a hematologist/oncologist there is simply no way that one can downplay the talent involved with this 12-track debut album! As someone who paid years of dues in both the rock scene in Minnesota and New York (with time also spent as a member of The Crackers!) Karen Haglof craftily builds upon her roots making "Western Holiday" a album that is not only about the blues ("Righteous Anger" and the blues-punk infused "Musician's Girlfriend Blues" (featuring Mitch Easter on slide guitar!) starting off the LP in that direction) but Americana, noise-pop, cowpunk, rockabilly, alt. country, guitar-driven pop rock and heartfelt rock and roll. It's sort of one of those album's where anything goes as long as it plays to the strengths of Karen as a vocalist and guitarist. With Steve Almaas (ex-Beat Rodeo) not only sitting in the producer's chair, but providing bass and vocals on "Dog In The Yard' (alternative country and rockabilly wrapped together all neat and tidy!) and "Lincoln Letters" (a number that ended up featuring the late, great Faye Hunter of Let's Active on lead vocals) and CP Roth on drums, piano and percussion "Western Holiday" ends up being a well-rounded release with a clean and crisp sound! In fact doing a full track-by-track breakdown of this fine solo album from Karen Hagloff would be a huge undertaking because of how well-rounded everything here is! Karen and her fellow musicians do such a wonderful job of infusing each track here with originality, creativity and integrity that by the time 80's rocker "Won't Wake Up To You" kicks in you're out of breath! For me the highlights of "Western Holiday" were too numerous to note as there is not a dull moment to be found as Karen's debut album is filler-free! With a real voice of honesty, reason and sometimes hurt Karen carries the weight of the world through-out these 12 revealing cuts and if justice were to be served 'Western Holiday" would become this year's must-hear hit album!

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