Whenever I listen to Joanne Hogg I have to approach her music from a non-religious perspective. As someone whom isn’t religious myself, hearing religious based music can be a bit of a struggle, however Hogg usually uses her lyrics in a more positive warm way and can be interpreted to find inner strength from other sources if you change their base.
“Personal” is Hogg’s second solo album and this one weaves a more worldly influence and a more piano singer/folk-songwriter feel. It doesn’t feel too far removes from Iona itself. Opener “More” places the piano centre to the mix with various other folk instruments like the dulcimer taking a side stage but adding real depth to the music. The chords mix between major and minors but everything has a certain warmth in its production that adds a further layer to it. “Forgive Me” is cute with its rolling piano riff verses. “O Lord I’m Crying For Help” reminds me very much of Emily Richards as its gives a lot of space for the vocals to breathe and Joanne has such a wonderful timber to her voice. The verses change to being quite grande and you’ll want to break out.
“Waiting” has a great trip beat to its emptiness where the whole song sounds more emotive for its lack of bottom end bass so even when the guitars are going for it, it sounds naturally like its rising and reaching to the sky. “The Fire When You Delay” is a mid tempo love fest. “Personal” again utilises a piano riff that circles round and round whilst chords change behind it. It results in some great melodies and some really touching moments. It’s a trick used in several places in the album and I really like it. “Dancing” breaks out some piano chops and some great string/woodwind instrumentation to give things an Irish Jig feel. We then get the sitar for “You Are My Strong Salvation” which is positive soft rock track given a juicy twist with the worldly instruments hidden in the mix. “I Felt Sad In Church Today” has a great use of Eastern Bells that have been muted. Layered into a beautiful melody its the slight twang of world fusion that continues to set Hogg apart from any of her peers. The closer “Where Grace Is Hiding” is the sole complete ballad on the album and is delicately played and sung.
Yes, Christian references are abound here but the music is superb. I still view it as positive folk rock in a way and that’s best to get it out to a wider audience so that people can really appreciate what an amazing talent Joanne Hogg is.