Earlier this year, Hogan released Beneath the Country Underdog, a convincing throwback to the lost era of AM country radio that puts her aching, pearly voice front and center. With labelmate and alt-country darling Neko Case (whose 2000 disc, Furnace Room Lullabies, has earned her well-deserved praise), Hogan is touring with a shared band and her dog, Augie. From the Chicago apartment she shares with her boyfriend/drummer Michael Bulington, Hogan helpfully clears up some cosmic mysteries:
Traveling in Style
"Neko just bought her new van, the Ultra Beaver," Hogan says of the tour's posh Chevy diesel ride. "It has a flat tire right now." Pressed for details, Hogan says she wasn't in on the initial joke, which had something to do with a ceramic beaver wedged over the dashboard. As rodents go, the beaver brings enough good fortune that Case transferred it from her previous van, The Beaver. "The van is the color of a Snickers bar," Hogan says, somehow permanently making both the candy and the vehicle less appealing.
Speaking of Nutty
With the level of discourse having plunged to mention of ceramic beavers, Hogan confides that Indigo Girls' Amy Ray proposed calling one of their tours "The Rolling Thunder Pussy Revue," a distaff goof on the title of Bob Dylan's epic Rolling Thunder Revue tour of 1976. "It was a suffragist thing. Emily (Saliers, the other Indigo Girl) put the kibosh on that," Hogan says.
Traveling without Style
During her stint at the Beechcraft counter in Atlanta, where Hogan ended up as an airplane salesperson after paying her dues "making sure the pro wrestlers have their chili dogs ready when they come off their private planes," she toured the inside of Iron Maiden's plane. "You know, I get choked up watching Lynyrd Skynyrd on Behind the Music, but now it makes a lot more sense to me (why the band's plane crashed). Iron Maiden's plane had red shag carpeting," Hogan says. Of the funny odor, she says, "It was like a flying tennis shoe."
Listen for the Union Label
Hogan and Case have both sung for commercials. Hogan, who counts the late angry comedian Bill Hicks as one of her many "posthumous crushes," tries to avoid thinking of her experience as the voice for an ad in Hicks' terms: as the work of "Satan's minions." "I thought it was kind of fun to sing about radial tires," Hogan admits. "But you can only do, like, three or something in a city before you have to join the local musician's union, so I didn't do very many. I did a version of the Lesley Gore song 'You Don't Own Me' with lyrics adapted to sell Suave shampoo. And I did a song about kidney dialysis. But I didn't want to be the girl in the studio all day with her Styrofoam cup and lozenges."
How Hogan Got Her Groove Back
At first, Hogan resisted the idea of recording for her bosses at Bloodshot. She said in 1998 that she didn't want to make an insurgent country record. "But their sound has changed so much," Hogan says of the 2000 model Bloodshot. "Post-Neko, post-Alejandro (Escovedo), we're all benefiting from Bloodshot's Stretch Armstrong definition of 'insurgent.' It used to be the insurgent umbrella that we all had to fit under. Now it's more like a cocktail umbrella rather than a golf umbrella." In other words, Hogan worked at the bar last night. And genre compartmentalizations are shifting to allow individuality again. One of those.
What Sexy Is
By the way, no copies remain of the Case/ Hogan split 7-inch single, which featured Case's gams and Hogan's come-hither stare from behind a can of Crisco in which she had dipped her fingers.
What Sexy Probably Isn't
Case was recently featured in Esquire magazine's "Women We Love" issue. Perfectly coiffed, gloved, and made up, she blends in neatly with fellow honorees Ashley Judd and Catherine Zeta Jones. But to achieve that look, Case had to endure an all-day photo session with Frosty, a pony brought up on an elevator for the New York City shoot. Explains Case: "They made me put on this crazy sexy-office-lady outfit and 6-inch heels, but they decided it wasn't sexy to see the horse with a bridle, so I had to wrestle the pony all day. I saw the issue and said, 'Where is the goddamn pony?'"
Changings of the Guard
Hogan on Case's Esquire shoot: "Well, she's got a better publicist than I do." Case, an hour later in a separate conversation: "Actually, my publicist just left her firm." Case stayed with her, not the firm. Hogan, meanwhile, says she "finally hired a booking agent" in early October to alleviate the singer's potential carpal tunnel syndrome as a result of scheduling all her own concerts by e-mail and on the phone.
Something to Look Forward to
Hogan plans to head back to the studio in February 2001 to begin recording her next album. Never at a loss for albums and songs to recommend for listening, Hogan already has a long list of potential covers for the next disc. "I'd love to do an entire album of Charlie Rich covers," Hogan says. "Instead of country-soul, the next record might be soul-country." Case, meanwhile, says she's never without "about 25 pieces of songs at a given moment." She writes her songs around a vocal melody rather than from chords. Case has taken up the guitar (a four-string tenor), so her writing may get better still. "Music is really much easier than people think it is. I mean, I'm not going to bust out with any great Smithsonian-style moments anytime soon. But it's not about being glitzy, structured, or precious. You just wrap your head around the song," Case says.
End of Article Spell-Check
Hogan and Case enjoy touring together. "There's lots of separate and tandem freaking out, depending on our cycles," Hogan says. "We went out in May and had a great time. She doesn't sing with me too much during my set, so she gets to hang out in the audience. She said all these critics were scribbling away furiously, so when she got up for her set, the first thing she said was, 'All you guys taking notes out there, 'pussy' is spelled with two Ss.'" Noted. With respect.