You certainly can't accuse Kelly Hogan of dishing up "more of the same" on her third solo album, Because It Feel Good -- while her previous release, Beneath the Country Underdog, was a solid and satisfying dose of rootsy C&W and R&B, Because It Feel Good aims for something a good bit more expressive, and much harder to pigeonhole. Hogan has once again teamed up with a handful of superb Chicago-area musicians (including guitarist Andy Hopkins, pedal steel virtuoso Jon Rauhouse, and violinist Andrew Bird, taking a breather from his own band Bowl of Fire), but she's also enlisted David Barbe (best known as the former bassist with Sugar) as producer, and with Barbe's help Hogan has gone for a broader and more impressionistic sound for this album. The opening cut, a cover of the Statler Brothers' hit "I'll Go to My Grave Loving You," sets the tone with its echoey, skeletal guitar patterns, stark and boomy percussion, and Hogan's beautiful, ethereal voice soaring above it all, achieving an effect that's at once gorgeous, heart-tugging, and a little ominous. It's a daring approach and a bravura performance, and it works superbly on both levels. While much of Because It Feel Good takes a somewhat more traditional approach (particularly the low-key weeper "(You Don't Know) The First Thing About Love" and the soulful "Please Don't Leave Me Lonely"), for the most part the album strays admirably far from the formulaic constraints of typical alt-country, and Hogan proves just how broad and how keen her talent is. While there are only two originals from Hogan and Hopkins, they're both superb, and as she recasts songs by Charlie Rich, Smog, and Randy Newman -- often without changing the gender of the main characters and always with taste, intelligence, and a simply gorgeous voice -- she makes it clear she's one of the finest and most imaginative interpretive singers of her generation. If you're looking for updated honky tonk, this might not be your cup of tea, but if you want to hear a gifted and imaginative singer make the most of a diverse collection of fine tunes, then Kelly Hogan's Because It Feel Good deserves a place in your CD player.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming