Poetic observations of people, places and times unencumbered by musical boundaries.
As his publisher once said, “for Doug Hoekstra, everyone is a story and everything a storyline”. That certainly applies to Hoekstra’s new album ‘The Day Deserved’, where he observes a rich array of characters, comments on places and events that glide through folk, rock and even reggae. Cohen is there, as are Dylan, the Velvet Underground and The Kinks.
Having started his music life in an alt-country band Hoekstra has made seven solo albums, EPs and written three books of fiction, essays and poetry. From this prolific output he has had time off, this is his first release for over a decade, but he has plenty to say, describing the record as “a marker of the times”.
‘Seaside Town’ tells an intriguing tale of disappearance by the sea. But is there a sinister motive or did she want to vanish? Hoekstra’s band ebb and flow to an aquatic bossa nova. Staying by the sea ‘Higher Ground’ adds further waves of sound to Hoekstra’s portent of climate change with a story about the inhabitants of a Pacific island doomed to immersion by rising tides.
A song for our times ‘Unseen Undetected’ features the persecution of an immigrant family trying to make a new life in America by the white nationalists who resent their presence. Together Hoekstra’s Lou Reed vocals, the unusual yet complementary blend of Velvet Underground/ Television guitars and cello line amplify the plight of people who want only “to be something instead of nothing” having to face such abuse “unseen, undetected, unseen”.
Hoekstra maintains that “the words drive the music and the music drives the words”. Inspired while going past cotton fields ‘Wintertime’ is a metaphor for the racial divide that still sears America with an R&B tempo and reference to “Muscle Shoals/ Bobby and Aretha”. A soft reggae beat propels ‘Carry Me’, a whimsical muse about his son growing up.
‘Gandy Dancer’ again matches a grim story about what happens when Eddie, who repairs train tracks, accepts a mysterious offer that “In a day he’d make more money/ Than a year as a working fool”. Hoekstra swaps his keyboard for a Wurlitzer that added to layers of horns, bass, drums and guitars creates menace in keeping with the story.
Proving Hoekstra’s symmetry of words and music producer Dave Coleman (guitars), Chris Benelli (drums) and Paul Slivka (bass) play with a lucidity to equal his lyrics. Hannah Fairlight’s vocals adds an even further dimension.
There is a great deal going on both lyrically and musically throughout this record that it can be hard keeping up. But even if the eloquent lyrics do detach themselves from the flowing layers of sound do not despair. ‘The Day Deserved’ merits repeated listening, an experience akin to returning to an art gallery several times and finding something new on each visit.