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Critics barking up the right tree when it comes to praising Police Dog Hogan

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 01, 2013

By Clare Robinson

Doggone it. this high-energy seven-piece band is winning critical acclaim as it goes about its avowed intent of spreading joy

Doggone it. this high-energy seven-piece band is winning critical acclaim as it goes about its avowed intent of spreading joy

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After seven years as an item, hi-energy seven-piece Police Dog Hogan, who blend four-part harmonies with fiddle, banjo, mandolin and guitars in their exuberant country/folk output, have won impressive critical acclaim.

The Telegraph hailed them one of its "favourite new bands", The Sunday Times called them simply "wonderful" while Radio 2 called them "a band to watch".

Which must be pretty satisfying for Westcountry-born lead singer/songwriter James Studholme, originally from Wembury, for whom musical success is particularly sweet second time around.

"After uni I spent my 20s making records in the 1980s as part of the alt country scene, which was not particularly cool at the time," says James. "Needless to say I failed to trouble the accountant!"

He got into making music videos which proved considerably more lucrative. "It was the beginning of MTV, we did videos for Madness, which was fantastic fun, then got bamboozled sideways into doing commercials."

Today, his London-based film company Blink, has a hugely impressive roster that includes music videos for Arctic Monkeys and Dizzee Rascal, and is responsible for the Cadbury's gorilla, as well as those incredible John Lewis ads – apparently there's a two-hanky weepy on the cards for Christmas – and much more besides.

"Music has always been my number one passion," he continues, "and seven years ago I had this existentialist crisis about helping others to be creative without doing anything myself. So I started playing again, and people would turn up at my house to play with me. When it got to seven, it had to stop."

The momentum of the band inspired James to write songs – "I have to need to write them in order to get them finished" – as it did vocalist/guitarist Pete Robinson.

As it happens, they turned out rather well and shows followed.

"We're most interested in purveying joy – we really want to give folk a good experience, make them laugh a bit, cry a bit, dance a bit.

"It's come as a shock to me that roots music is quite so popular now, but it is very inclusive. It's fundamentally about storytelling and connecting with the audience with universal themes of death, divorce, bankruptcy… And of course we're aiming at a more mature audience with a deep love of music that is perhaps not so well catered for as the 16-year-olds who have One Direction and the rest."

Foot stomping live performances won them high profile slots at Larmer Tree, Bestival and Cornbury festivals and they've sold out Bush Hall, The 100 Club and The Troubadour.

Their most recent album, their third, From The Land Of Miracles, was produced by Eliot James, responsible for Kaiser Chiefs, Bloc Party, Noah and the Whale and others.

"We're very proud of it, it's a really complete piece of work although it perhaps doesn't reflect the humour in the band.

"It's all very exciting and we do find ourselves acting like 18-year-olds at times," continues James. "But the advantage of being older is that we have encountered lots of people who have turned out to be rather useful!"

They have until now, made a deliberate point of not over-PRing ourselves, surprising given the band line-up also includes a QC and Guardian columnist among its ranks.

"We didn't want people to think we were just hobbyists – we are deadly serious about our music."

It shows. They deliver superbly structured songs with consummate instrumental performances, worthy of any professional band.

See Police Dog Hogan at the Barnfield Theatre, Exeter on November 7 and Calstock Village Hall, November 23.

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