Sep 12, 2010 Album Reviews
Posted by Adam
This record came to me in the mail a couple weeks ago and although I was not familiar with Hogan’s previous works I was excited to hear it. It is essentially a tribute record to two Texas legends in Townes Van Zandt and Blaze Foley.
I’m always interested to hear tribute records, especially when they involve Townes. On this one Hogan does a remarkable job handling the material with the skill and class the songs demand. Included on it are six Van Zandt songs and three Foley songs and a surprise twist.
The twist is three new Foley tunes that had never been recorded or had music written for them as far as anyone knows. These lyrics were found in a notebook of Blaze’s personal things by his sister and given to Jon Hogan to finish shortly after performing the Townes Wake at the Old Quarter in January 2009. I can only imagine the emotions that ran through Hogan as he sat down to add music to the words of one of his heroes more than twenty years after his passing.
The instrumentation on the record is phenomenal throughout. On most of the songs it is very sparse allowing the songs shine through often just focusing on the interactions of Hogan’s rhythm guitar and Maria Moss’ finger picking with some embellishments from other musicians sprinkled in.
Hogan’s voice is as close to perfect for the material as one can get. He manages to match the weariness of both Foley and Van Zandt even on the more upbeat tunes.
As for the highlights of the record I will focus mainly on the “new” songs but I have to mention a few of the classics that stood out for me. Among the Townes songs, I think the best is Hogan’s version of “Lungs”. Hogan’s vocals really stand out on this one as he sustains lines and holds notes to really emphasis them. The Blaze Foley song that stood out for me was easy because it was “Clay Pigeons”. I know this may be the simple pick being Foley’s most famous song, but it is such a damn good tune and that fact is not lost when Hogan lays it out on this recording.
The three new songs on the record are all pretty damn good. The title track and first song on the album, “Every Now and Then” is one of the two that Blaze had titled already. Accompanied by a fiddle on this one, Hogan did a great job of arranging this to fit the words.
“Can’t Always Cry” was named after the repeated line by Hogan while working with the song. The song is the universal story of a man who has lost love and is vowing to change the way he lives to perhaps regain the love that has flown.
Towards the end of the record the last co-write, “Safe in the Arms of Love” is probably my favorite of the three. “I’d give everything I got left for to give, to be safe in the arms of love” sings Hogan after lamenting over all the things he had already messed up in his life. This song is simple and poetic at the same time which is really what the beauty of Blaze’s songs is all about.
In the end, Hogan has met all the requirements of a successful tribute record and included a major bonus. He handled all of the material with ease and really showcased his own ability to adapt things to his own personal style without losing the essence of the song. Although I never need prodding to listen to a Townes record, Hogan did push me into breaking out all of my Blaze Foley records and remember what was so great about them, which is always a good sign after listening to a cover or tribute album. If there were people who were unfamiliar with either of the songwriters that are featured here I believe Hogan’s interpretations would be good enough to force them to delve into the respective catalogs.
On top of all that we got three new Blaze Foley songs to appreciate and that in and of itself makes this record worth making and buying. If you do not have it, please visit Hogan’s website here and buy a copy. You will not regret your actions.