I’ve learned life has speed bumps, but don’t confuse them with the end of the road. Sean Hogan
The response to Sean Hogan’s 1996 debut album was extraordinary. His uniquely authentic blend of ‘alt-country’ and ‘modern rustic pop’ immediately caught the attention of country radio and music fans across Canada, leading to his first Canadian Country Music Association award (Independent Male Artist of the Year, 1997). Sean’s next two albums, Hijacked and Late Last Night were each named Best Country Album at the West Coast Music Awards. He followed up these accolades with the CCMA’s Roots Artist of the Year award in 2003. His next album, Catalina Sunrise, won three more music industry awards and was named the second best album of 2005 by the Country Music News.
Hit single after hit single (Slow Turning, Sure Fire Love, Dream Vacation, Angeline, I’d Rather Have You, Centered, Catalina Sunrise, A Cowboy’s Heart, and Suck It Up to name a few) became staples of country music radio. Eighteen Sean Hogan music videos aired on Country Music Television. His first two U.S. album releases, 2003’s Ruled By Mercury and 2008’s Conspiracy Radio, climbed the Americana music charts and were well-received by radio south of the border. In between those releases, he recorded his fifth Canadian album, The Southern Sessions, putting him back on Canadian country radio with the hit singles What Would You Have Me Believe and Suck It Up. Even Linedancer Magazine (based in England) profiled Hogan with a great review and contributing choreographers writing dances to several Hogan tracks from the album. The 2009 U.S. release of The Southern Sessions produced two more chart hits there. In between he found the time to lead his annual cross-country Canadian Country Christmas tours, bringing a group of high-profile Canadian country music artists to large and small communities coast to coast raising over $100,000 for local charities and sponsoring dozens of children in Third World countries over the past decade.
Despite his record of success, by late 2010 Sean was frustrated and somewhat discouraged. While The Southern Sessions contained some of his strongest songs to date, he felt he was releasing music that was coming too much from his head and not enough from his heart. As an artist who prefers to till the dark soil on the border between country and roots rock, between self-doubt and self-reliance (Lenny Stoute, Cashbox Canada), it became apparent that it was no longer wise for Sean to try to pigeonhole his music into standard radio formats. Inspired in part by the work of two of his musical heroes, genre-defying songwriters John Hiatt and Lyle Lovett, Sean chose to free himself from the limitations that were the by-product of his previous successes and went to work on the prophetically-titled Phoenix. Within a few months he had created an album that erased the lines between roots rock and country, with sounds heavily influenced by the soul-injected music he has enjoyed his whole life. Great new songs ranging from soulful slow burners to the funky title track, several featuring additional vocals by legendary session singer Bekka Bramlett (Fleetwood Mac, Faith Hill, Robert Plant), resulted in an album that truly represented Sean’s most authentic self.
In the spring of 2011, Sean was touring and readying Phoenix for release. The first single, Travel Plans, became another top ten hit single. But all wasn’t well. Sean was finding touring exhausting (for some strange reason), and had a chronic sore throat. The cause was diagnosed as tonsillitis, but treatment didn’t make his symptoms disappear. By mid-August he was diagnosed with oral pharyngeal cancer. Months of rigorous chemotherapy and radiation followed.
Fellow artists and friends rallied to his support, holding fundraising concerts across Canada and carrying on his Canadian Country Christmas tour tradition in his absence. After a harrowing six months, Sean received a clean bill of health in March of 2012.
Sean had no idea when he named the album Phoenix that this would be a comeback from anything more than some artistic challenges. As he predicted in the title track, Like a phoenix flying out of the ashes, I will rise.
With Phoenix, Sean Hogan has risen to the occasion.
When you make an album this good it transcends genres well written, soulful tracks If there is a better country album than this in 2012, I will be surprised.
John Emms, Music Journalist and Radio Host
When Phoenix rises, it’ll surprise both fans and newcomers with the quality of the music, the voice and the emotional appeal
Lenny Stoute, Cashbox Canada
Roadhouse meets the back porch [Hogan and Bekka Bramlett] make the most powerful roots pairing since Jerry Lee Lewis and his sister, Linda Gail Lewis
James Reaney, London Free Press
His most soulful numbers yet classic Hogan
Bruce Leperre, Winnipeg Free Press