Chicago-bred Doug Hoekstra’s first CD in over a decade comes with The Day Deserved (Drop Autumn Records/April 30). With a solid catalog of 8 CDs, he provides a set of diverse new character-based songs. Not typical singer-songwriter fare.
“Seaside Town,” starts with somewhat sublime vocals. Good lyrics. It just lacks musical aggressiveness that the melody break seems to reach for. The song is interesting, nonetheless. Doug’s band plays to build the tale & their instrumentation is exciting.
While Hoekstra (rhythm/acoustic guitars/keys) epitomizes good lyrical sense with tight arrangements his voice on “Unseen Undetected,” seldom rises above a whisper. Strong subjects, clever showcase. The vocalization isn’t strong or distinguishable, so it suffers in authority. A Richard Thompson edge would’ve been beneficial. The statement falls short of infusing its message.
A catchier tune with good saxes blesses “Wintertime.” David wrote a good soul song no doubt, it has a groove but lacks weight. If Taj Mahal or Keb’ Mo sang this it would be more genuine. Here it drags, lacks punch as evidenced by even the backup singers who are lifeless. Needs fortification. Under-rehearsed? Maybe. This song can be rescued.
Though still frail vocally “Late Night Ramble,” has poignancy. Its sincerity indeed makes this song one of the CDs best. Well composed, no argument. It’s nothing that hasn’t been done before, but it’s done with expertise. The mellow melody played with delicacy is mindful of songs from Eric Andersen & the late folky David Blue.
“As if every tear she cried, soaked into the pillow never left to dry.” Great lyric. The clarinet’s a nice touch.
“Carry Me,” another tune burrowed into a powerless vocal is carried by Doug’s personality. Lyrics are tied into an exceptional subject to sing about. There’s no denial Hoekstra writes songs from a benevolent place. He is a viable source for singers who don’t compose as well as he does. Some versions are low blue flames not fiery.
On “Grace,” Doug hints at what the song could be. Leonard Cohen didn’t have a great voice, but had charm, was unique in delivery & it took him decades to be vocally admired. Doug needs more range so his songs can go from moderate to engaging.
Finally, excellent character steams from “Gandy Dancer” (the rhythmic movement of men laying track for trains). Hannah Fairlight’s vocal adds color. Doug lays down superb vocals. His musicians cook with attitude, sass & conviction. Jimmy Bowland’s sax dirties it up nice.
Doug’s soft tones work better on “Keeper of the Word,” — his charm is evident. Hannah brightens. Creative & assured. This is excellent. Period.
The closer “Outside Looking In,” is similar to the late Steve Goodman & John Prine. A jewel. Doug does have compelling material. Chris Benelli (drums), David Henry (violin/cello), Paul Slivka (bass), Jude Hoekstra (clarinet), & Preacher Boy (vocals).
Produced by Doug & Dave Coleman (lead guitar/mandolin/bass drum). The 56-minute CD available @ https://doughoekstra.net/