Artist: Karen Haglof
Album: Perseverance and Grace
Label: Self Released
Release Date: 4/22/2016
A country girl at heart, Karen Haglof slips into something more comfortable in “Cowgirl Clothes.” Picking out the first thing in the delightfully messy closet of vintage Americana and rugged, grungy indie rock that is her rather unassuming sophomore solo album Perseverance and Grace, it’s a perfect fit on her, although she can pull off a black t-shirt and Doc Martens like nobody’s business.
Riding along to its easy, locomotive rhythm, the lighthearted, countrified “Cowgirl Clothes” would trade cosmopolitan complications for something simpler, more bucolic in a heartbeat, while the timeless “Trouble (Won’t Say More Than That),” with its rollicking piano and electric guitar sparkle, is sassy, freewheeling country pop that’s a little bit Johnny Cash and a whole lot of Patsy Cline. Wanting to wipe the slate clean and make some changes, Haglof swaggers through a honky-tonkin’ “New Heart” and a jumpy, quicksilver “Steel Blue Hills” gets all tangled up in nests of down-home slide guitar, but there’s another side to her.
Once a member of noise-rock insurgents Band of Susans, having also worked with avant-garde visionary Rhys Chatham, Haglof doesn’t shy away from brawling, growling rockers like “Hair Bite” and “Tornado (Through the Bottleneck),” its herky-jerky, wrenched riffs as utilitarian as a mechanic’s tools. Writing slice-of-life vignettes in a plain, straightforward fashion, Haglof is clearly comfortable in her own skin – somewhat wounded, but also defiant and resilient, just like the title track. And she’s sneaky, too, surreptitiously planting memorable hooks in your head with disarming ease, even if they aren’t immediately appealing. She does it all with Perseverance and Grace.
– Peter Lindblad