PressA Fine Country Singer-Songwriter
East Nashville, Tennessee brings us a fine country singer-songwriter by the name of Derek Hoke who is about to release his fist album during the SXSW Festival in March. The album goes by the name Goodbye Rock N Roll but features rock ‘n’ roll influences all the way through even though it still is primary a country record. And yes, you read right, I did not write alt country, because this music feels really real without anything alternative to it – honest music from a honest musician with a great band at his back.
First thing that really got me hooked was Derek’s voice – its clean and clear, not too high, but loaded with emotions and with an great feeling of an old school western bar to it. Exactly the voice this record needed. Sometimes I had to think of Jonathan Byrd but I’m not quite sure why. There isn’t much both artists share, neither in songwriting nor in singing – but I felt like I should mention this, because every time I have to think of Jonathan Byrd it means that the record must be something special. And special is quite the right word to describe Goodbye Rock N Roll because there are so many influences and styles on it that one can really bite its teeth into the music.
It starts with the story about a man who leaves back his beloved rock ‘n’ roll to play country music and the track really is a great country song with wonderful pedal steel melodies and steady hoofbeats mimed via the percussions. Maybe the whole thing is a bit stereotypical but, if I’m honest to myself, what would country music be without some good stereotypes? So I see this with a little wink. But I spoke of the variety of styles; track two Hot On The Heels Of Love got some decent characteristics of an good old love song sung by Mister Nat King Cole himself and goes in a very different direction as you may thought after listening to the opener. It clearly shows that Derek is attracted by the music of jazz musicians and this love for jazz can be clearly heard in track three, Too Late, with the jazzy percussions and the really familiar sounding lap steel moments (good old Chattanooga Choo Choo says hallo, great!)
And even though I’m not so much into song-by-song reviews, this record quite seems to require this sort of treatment, because, as Robert K. Oermann rightfully wrote for the Music Row Magazine (quoted on Hoke’s MySpace), “every track is a single” and really got an character of its own. Just look at track four, The Finer Things. I really can imagine this track in one of Tarantino’s movies (not speaking of Inglourious Basterds though). Nice little rock ‘n’ roll influenced country song. But that’s not all, for Derek proves that he’s also able to let some more modern genres into his songwriting. I feel a little bit of indie flavor at the beginning of track six, Where’d You Sleep Last Night, before the whole thing emerges into an forward driven country sing-along. But the first impression of an indie flavor wasn’t wrong, because track seven clearly pushes it one step further into this direction. This brings us to End Of The River which combines elements of contemporary folk and singer-songwriter music with country music as played on the rest of the album. I think this works out pretty well and End Of The River clearly is my favorite of the album, simultaneously showing an unbelievable feeling on Derek Hoke’s site for integrating different genres into his music – what a beautiful track.
And so it is no surprise that the second last track continues the idea of featuring some female backing vocals as in the songs beforehand by showing us a really nice country duet, that reminds me a bit of the southern gothic duets sung by alt country band Blanche – but without the dark side to them. Last track is I Think I Really Love You and, you guess it, again it is something different than the tracks before – more blues, decent rock’n’ roll flavor and lots of piano. Sadly I don’t have a fascination for this song and it feels a little bit like a filler to me – also a bit over the edge. But even though I don’t like it that much, it surely fits the album well.
So, seems to be a lot of praise I got left for Goodbye Rock N Roll – but one thing, and I said it before with the words of Robert K. Oermann, has to be mentioned again. It is true, that all songs are great and that they show the enormous talent of Derek’s songwriting, but one goal they cannot achieve: to create a cohesive album with a clear concept. It feels like Derek wrote those songs, one by one, not so much thinking about the result as a whole but more of a loose collection of tunes. This debut easily could be a best-of where “every track is a single” – and herein lies the reason for the one and only serious weak point.
Common Folk Meadow
Hoke's Style Keen and Smooth
There are enough throwback acts kicking around, but Hoke's got that sense of style that's both keen and smooth, channeling a bygone era with a breezy, free-wheeling sense of ease.
Every Track Is A Single
Great newcomers are always a surprise.
Genial sounding Derek Hoke has an
album where any of its 10 tracks could
be a single. I reviewed the title tune, but
also check out “Where’d You Sleep Last
Night,” “Hot on the Heels of Love” or
“Rain, Rain, Rain.” And give that man a
Robert K. Oermann
Music Row Magazine