Friday, October 3, 2014

Karen Haglof (ex-Band of Susans) Drops Western Holiday

I got into Band of Susans in 1988. Somehow, because I had just purchased a CD player and was combing Tower for anything cool, imported, or new, I bought some Swans and Band of Susans largely on a whim 'cause of some write-ups in Option magazine.

While other female-fronted bands like Throwing Muses got (deserved) critical acclaim, it seemed as if Band of Susans were not quite as highly respected here as they were on the other side of the Atlantic.

Carrying on that guitar-noise tradition, and adding some new layers, one-time Band of Susans guitarist Karen Haglof has released her album Western Holiday.

From the opening PJ Harvey-strut of the title cut, to the piano-led blues swagger of "Righteous Anger", to "Musician's Girlfriend Blues", the album starts off impressively. The cuts have a sort of raunchy appeal but remain good showcases for Hagloff's riffs. Part Jimmy Page circa the first Zep album, part John Hiatt -- hey, the guy is more than just a great songwriter! -- Hagloff unwinds some tasty licks and long lines of passionate playing.

Aided by Steve Almaas on bass and C.P. Roth on drums and piano, Hagloff conjures up a mood closer to Nick Cave and Anita Lane than Band of Susans. I should also mention the backing vocals from the late Faye Hunter on one cut and her Let's Active mate Mitch Easter's slide guitar on another.

Western Holiday is a very fine collection of solid playing and mean-and-nasty blues-y hooks. Haglof's playing is a revelation. First-time listeners will be asking: "Who the hell is this guitarist and why haven't I heard of her before now?"

Well some of us -- aging Band of Susans fans -- have heard of her before and we're happy to enjoy her new venture.

Follow Karen Haglof on her official website.