Like any good realist, Derek Hoke knows you can’t be a rocker forever — it’s painful to watch (e.g., The Stones, The Who, Aerosmith). But good country and roots artists — like whiskey and leather boots — only seem to get better with age.
The title track opens this debut with a playfully bittersweet sayonara to rock ‘n’ roll: “Sweet dreams, turn your amps down low. Sweet dreams, it’s time for me to go.” You can sense the hitch in his throat, the tear in his eye.
Georgia native and ten-year Nashville resident Hoke has been in rock bands in the past — we’re not sure how much of a rocker he was — and although the sentiments on this debut album are heartfelt and honest, he doesn’t completely say goodbye. He lingers a bit at the door: “Hot on the Heels of Love” is pure Holly-esque rock ‘n’ roll, with whistles, xylophone and a shuffling rockabilly cha-cha beat.
“Finer Things” has all the elements of a classic country throwback tune: corn liquor, two-dollar suits, longneck bottles, minimum wage, beat-up trucks, a mean woman for a wife, and bail money. It’s all done with good-natured ironic wit.
Hoke’s Buddy Holly/Steve Allen/’60s insurance salesman looks belie a smooth and easy country tenor that makes for pure ear candy, fun and polished. And, like real candy, it’s ultra sweet in spots — satisfying and almost too sweet if you overindulge.
Sweet indeed, as in “Sweet Pea”, a lovely duet with Jen Duke where cute cliches fly like hashbrowns off the griddle in a busy Waffle House. “Where’d You Sleep Last Night” is pure, unadulterated adultery, raucous and ravenous.
Diabetics fear not, for Hoke isn’t all sweetness and light, as in “End of the River” when the narrator examines life beyond a forest of confusion, wondering what lies at the end of a metaphorical river, and finding beginnings in endings. “Still Waiting” weaves a tale of awkward and unrequited love — at times the narrator seems to be a borderline stalker.
With backing musicians whose credits include Emmylou Harris, BR5-49, Hank Jr., and Lyle Lovett, this is one fun and shiny debut — pedal steel, harmonica and fiddles abound. The only downside is, at only ten tracks, we’re left wanting more. But then again, maybe that’s good!
Sample Goodbye Rock ‘N’ Roll and download it at DerekHoke.Bankcamp.com.
With a nod to Stanley Kubrick, Peter Sellers, Terry Southern and Peter George, Derek also blogs at How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Blog.
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