If you’ve never heard the music of Hank Dogs, check it out. It’s a folksy British acoustic trio of a dad, daughter, and ex-stepmom who perform wonderful singer-songwriter material in a Modern Americana or Alternative Country style, with ethereal harmonies and guitar. The lyrics are melancholy, often about interpersonal relationships from the point of view of someone who has absorbed the vocabulary of psychological self-help enough to affect their world view. The title track of their second album Half Smile (just recently released in Britain) includes the gem,
Clever as always with your timing
another kick when a person’s down.
Springtime, little rosebuds,
the upturned corners of a half smile.
The delivery is mysterious and haunting, with well-paced repetitions and dark, lilting vocal harmonies that underscore the speaker’s bitterness. We often listen to this album while we’re going to sleep; it’s soft and soothing despite the melancholy overtones in most of the lyrics and much of the music.
The album is full of psychodramatic tidbits of interpersonal dysfunction:
Sitting here my guts aching
Don’t you think by the morning I’ll still
Have a clear picture
I’m held, you say I think I’m held
Against a wall, I’m pinned not against my will …
and also poignant insights like this snapshot of life in the countryside:
This is our track, hidden away up in West Wales,
Five years old & riding bareback …
Whole way, whole way she goes,
Saving her money for a horse of her very own.
I recently got hold of their first album, Bareback, (that last quote is from the title track) and it’s also really wonderful. I keep playing the song “Daddy’s Arms” over and over. Hank Dogs is totally one of my favorite bands now.
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