The reliable backup singer who seizes the spotlight is the stuff of entertainment-industry fairy tales, but Kelly Hogan hasn't actually had to labor in obscurity. She's spent the last decade or so as a high-profile accompanist for the likes of Jakob Dylan and Neko Case; the three of them even played a Tiny Desk Concert together a couple years ago, and it's not as if Hogan had to sing behind a curtain like Debbie Reynolds in Singin' in the Rain. Hogan is no household name, but she had little trouble inspiring a load of terrific songwriters to contribute a dozen custom-made compositions for her new album.
That record, I Like to Keep Myself in Pain — a title it shares with the Robyn Hitchcock song she performs here — exudes confidence and unflappable professionalism. And, naturally, that carries over to this performance in the NPR Music offices, as Hogan and her ace band knock out three songs with seeming effortlessness and easygoing charm.
Hogan took 11 years off between her last solo record and I Like to Keep Myself in Pain, in large part because she's been working constantly with other musicians — ironically, their constant demand for her work has helped keep her from seizing the spotlight. Seeing her in action, both in performance and as a calming presence in a chaotic room both before and afterward, it's easy to see why her collaborators never want to let her go: You can't go wrong surrounding yourself with oases of calm competence, especially when they bring cupcakes to share and sing as beautifully as Hogan does here.
- "Plant White Roses"
- "I Like To Keep Myself In Pain"
Producer: Stephen Thompson; Editor and Videographer: Michael Katzif; Audio Engineer: Kevin Wait; photo by Michael Katzif/NPR