by Thomas Bedward June 20, 2021
An Irish singer-songwriter based in the heart of Moscow, Rolf Hogan is perhaps one of the most colourful and charismatic musical figures you’ll meet this year. Armed with an acoustic rock style that shines with the same wandering imagery and poetic spirit as Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits, Rolf’s style is timeless, evocative, and wonderfully universal.
In true and honest style, most of Rolf songs incorporate elements of traditional Irish and American folk songs, touching on his own heritage and timeless folklore, as well as expanding into more mainstream sounds that echo the . It’s a bold and visceral mix, and Rolf marries his melodies perfectly with themes that go beyond the usual fare, touching on addiction, the weakness of human nature and the corruption that lies at the heart of Western society.
Throughout the early 2000s, Hogan built and refined his style, performing in Switzerland supported by guitarist André Courbat and the five-piece band Les Kystes. From there, Rolf took his time moving forward, writing and perfecting a string of songs that would become his first album, ‘Шуба for the Songs’, a folk-infused epic that was recorded with Courbat in Switzerland and released just last year.
As an album, ‘Шуба for the Songs’ has been thirty years in the making, harking back to when Rolf was a student in Ireland, France and Scotland. A deep and thought-provoking release that covering themes from the sex trade to geopolitics, the album is a fine tapestry of sounds and stylistic choices that strike right at the heart of every listener. A true labour of love, and a perfect illustration of Rolf’s standing, explained the call of the album, “I started recording most of the songs in 2006 and came back to Andre's studio a decade later to finish them. Thankfully, he still had the tracks diligently saved. It cost a bit of money which my wife would have liked to spend on something else. To assuage my guilt, I promised her a fur coat (Shuba or шуба in Russian). I haven't managed to deliver it yet but let’s see how the sales go!”
He continued, “This album has been a little life in the making. Many of the songs were written with bedsit riffs and cut in analogue decades ago. When I finally got to finishing the recordings started fifteen years before, Andre asked me what I was doing it for. Fame, money, sex? The only answer that made sense was that I am doing it ‘for the songs’. Leonard Cohen and Keith Richards both speak of songs being caught rather than written - they exist in another dimension and the songwriter just catches them. So after all these years by releasing the album I feel like I am finally letting them go!”.
Adding another layer to Rolf’s creative world is the online promoter, Mr Wolf, a fun character who injects his own eccentric humour into the backstories on the songs. It’s a unique twist that adds another dimension to Rolf’s music, one that showcases the lighter side of the songs and lends some kind of comic relief from the world’s problems.
With plans to record and release another album sometime in the future, and with regular performances online every Saturday, Rolf is a rare breed of artist that deserves all the attention and praise that he can find.
You can tune in to Rolf’s debut record above via Spotify, or on all your favourite streaming platforms, and be sure to follow both him and Mr Wolf on social media below so you never miss a release.
Connect with Rolf Hogan and Mr Wolf,