Kelly Hogan has done such an incredible job of maintaining visibility without attracting undue attention, the 11-year gap between her last album, 2001's "Because It Feel Good," and her new one, the stunning "I Like to Keep Myself in Pain," seems almost incomprehensible. After stints with the Jody Grind and the Rock*A*Teens, Hogan released her debut solo album, 1996's "A Whistle Only Dogs Can Hear," and then side-stepped music, taking work as a bartender at Chicago's Hideout and as a publicist for Bloodshot Records. Her two Bloodshot albums could have been the first shots in an amazing career at the front of the stage, but Hogan chose the background, becoming a member of Neko Case's band and doing sessions for Mavis Staples, Jakob Dylan, Drive-By Truckers, the Minus 5, Jon Langford's various activities and many others.
Thankfully, Hogan's friends once again convinced her to step into the spotlight for another solo album. "I Like to Keep Myself in Pain" is a marvel of depth, cohesion and consistency, even as it flirts with classic country (the Willie Nelsonesque title track), pop (the Shelby Lynne-touched We Can't Have Nice Things), jazz (the hypnotic Sinatra rumination of Daddy's Little Girl), roots rock (the propulsive Haunted) and all of the above (her own brilliant composition, Golden) while relying on a dizzying cast of songwriters from all musical corners (Robyn Hitchcock, Andrew Bird, Jon Langford, M. Ward). "Pain" certainly benefits from its all-star band, including legendary keyboardist Booker T. Jones and Daptones honcho Gabriel Roth, but it's Kelly Hogan's beautifully earthy voice and unique creative vision that weaves the disparate threads of song, style and presentation into a compelling and consistently wonderful sonic tapestry.