Album Review: Karen Haglof’s “Western Holiday”

“If you think you want to do something, you better do it now.” That statement came from a hematologist/oncologist by the name of Karen Haglof. She is also a talented singer/songwriter who recorded her first solo album, Western Holiday.

Her musical roots go back to when she worked with Rys Chatham and was a member of Band of Susans. Karen is no stranger to music even as her medical career took her in a different direction. She never stopped being a musician, with Western Holiday a prime example.

Western Holiday is an album difficult to define. It has a distant genre giving listeners a taste of folk, country, blues, and alternative rock while adding a Western flair. Karen opens with “Western Holiday.”  A lover of horses and dude ranches, the number comes out of Karen’s history. The song is based on a wrangler she knows personally, realizing there is more to a cowboy than entertaining guests.  As she sings, Karen sees the smile, but wonders what is behind the smile. What interesting stories does he have?

As the album continues, Karen takes listeners to the bluesy sound of “Righteous Anger” unceasing with the number “Musician Girlfriend Blues”, both tracks having merit, but “Musician’s Girlfriend Blues” makes for compelling lyrics as her significant other/songwriter notes a past love. Karen wants a song regarding “the one who stayed,” opposed to “the one who strayed.”  Karen remains steady with “Demon Soul Clap” as she shakes “off those demons.” The stanza “Faith takes work, and work is all I do,” is one many can relate to. Continuing with the western flavor, Karen is fixed with tunes “Don’t Straddle Fences,” Saddle Bronc Rider/Barrel Girl,” and 24-Hour Prayer” as she writes of experiences and acquaintances.

“Dog in the Yard,” a rockabilly tune, will hold your attention as she writes, “Thought you trained me, I trained you.” This piece is a favorite. “Lincoln Letters” is engaging as she sings, “A part of me wants a part of you.” “Lincoln Letters” has significance having the late Faye Hunter on lead vocals.  Karen finishes the tracks with “Won’t Wake Up To You.” This is another pick of mine.  The piece has a 60’s sound adding a Joan Jett feel to it.  It’s different from the album’s tone, but is enjoyable as her final number.

Western Holiday has something for many lovers of music.  Being Karen’s first solo album, it probably will not be her last. It is a great start that should resume Karen’s music career as she moonlights in the medical field.  She has a notable voice and captivates as a songwriter.  Besides, how many musicians do you know that work as a hematologist/oncologist?

This is Karen Haglof, and she has a Western Holiday.

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