As a regular reader you may well be thinking, ‘not sure those ‘Van Life’ pieces are particularly relevant at the moment given all these musicians are holed up riding out the lockdown.’ And you would of course be right. But, even though the wheels on tarmac may be on hold, the ears on vinyl is still very much apparent. So, for the time being or at least until things start to get moving again in terms of gigging and touring, we are asking some isolating musicians what is on their turntables keeping them sane. First up is Nashville resident, singer-songwriter, author and all round good egg Doug Hoekstra who is currently in the last throws of recording a brand new album. A wonderful observationalist, Hoekstra conjures songs that run the gamut from wistful pop to articulate Americana. With the wonders of modern technology Americana-UK gets virtually invited into the Hoekstra household to get a handle on how things are panning out.
So, lockdown. Any positives, Doug, for a fervent minded musician like yourself? Being an introvert, I think the safer at home concept is easier for me to adapt to. It’s a weird contrast, thought, because although there is so much suffering, angst, and uncertainty going on in the world right now, when I take a walk around my block, everyone is out, on their porches (at safe distances), saying hello, working on their yards and it feels like I’ve been transported to simpler times of my childhood. Or I can sit in a hammock in my backyard with a book and the birds and everything is a million miles away. Here in Nashville, many folks got on the safer at home idea pretty early, voluntarily; Tennessee was slower to act; and it’s different everywhere in the states, due to the lack of national leadership (understatement). This will pass, however, all things are impermanent, so I’m trying to remain optimistic for the long view.
My son, Jude, is a senior in high school; he is on virtual learning at home for his last semester, which I don’t think upsets him. We play board games, take walks, watch movies – typical activities, anyways. As for me, I split between work life and creative life. Work life, I’ve been doing some grant writing for an organization that supports resources for 30 federally recognized Native American tribal governments, and it’s been busy because of COVID-19 funding coming through – we just got several million dollars from the CDC, to distributed to those Tribal Nations as quickly as possible. It’s good to be part of the solution, in that context.
Creatively, I had one song left to finish, on a new album I cut at Dave Coleman’s Howard’s Apartment Studio in Nashville this past year, so Dave and I are volleying ideas and parts on that, remotely, ourselves and with others (Chris Benelli, Hannah Fairlight, Preacher Boy). Just did some nice Wurlitzer piano for that myself. Did another new song that I also sent overseas for some overdubs by Kirsty McGee. Sometimes necessity is the mother of invention and the current situation can force you to approach your art differently. Also in the works were redoing a few vocals on four songs I cut at House of Music in Chicago, for a separate EP, so I’m doing those at home to fly them back Bits and bobs on some new songs are happening, and I have a book of short stories, “Ten Seconds In-Between’ slated for late in the year, so working on cover art ideas for that. I’ve been trying to read lighter stuff and just finished a fantastic book called “Camel’s Bastard Son” by my friend Corey Mesler, who is also proprietor of Burke’s Books in Memphis.
You’ve exhausted the board games, the news cycle is spiralling out of control, you reach for any man’s saving grace – the albums! What’s on top of the pile?
In terms of the playlist at home, that’s always pretty kinetic, regardless of global pandemics, but here it is right now
‘Bruised Orange’ John Prine – I had to pull out John’s records in the face of his illness and passing. Sad to lose such a legend and Nashville icon, as well. Any of his records would do, but I have a fondness for this one.
‘Bitches Brew’ Miles Davis – Enough said. Even though I’m often a word guy, sometimes words don’t do it. This does.
‘New Routes’ Lulu – Yes, Lulu. Great singer and this album was cut in Muscle Shoals, with the Swampers and songs by Eddie Hinton and Donnie Fritts
‘IRM’ Charlotte Gainsbourg – I love Charlotte’s records and this collaboration with Beck has great songs and super interesting production
‘The Unissued Capitol Album’ Jim Ford – Trying to support my favorite small businesses in the light of things, including Dusty Groove in Chicago. So, this Bear Family re-release was in a recent order; Ford is an unsung country soul singer from the 1970s, one of Nick Lowe’s favorites. This collection includes “36 Inches High” and “Harry Hippy,” among other cuts.
‘Murder Most Foul’ Bob Dylan – I’m a Dylanmaniac through and through, and what can you say? Bob drops this 17 minute masterpiece on us, you have to listen. People are already trying to decode it, but even on face value, it’s mesmerizing.
‘Arthur ‘ The Kinks – Bought the 4 CD box set a little while back and being at home gives me time to listen to the whole thing. The Kinks were a huge influence on me growing up and on my writing and what can you say? This set is genius.
‘Neon Skyline’ Andy Shauf – My son and I first heard Andy last year on the BBC, when we were visiting our friend Mark Whitfield in Liverpool, before heading up to Fringe. So, we listened to him a lot on that trip, and when the new album came out, got that and went to see him in Knoxville just before things got locked down. Great record, great show and I have a picture of my son and Mr. Shauf to prove it.
‘Jazz Raga’ Gabor Szabo – Just as it sounds, raga tinged jazz by the excellent Hungarian-American guitarist
‘1968 ‘ France Gall – Cool re-release from Third Man Records in Nashville, which I’ve also been listening to a lot lately. Stellar work from the French ye-ye, and Gainsbourg again, with a couple cuts written by Serge, including the excellent “Nerfetiti”
Doug Hoekstra’s new album will be out late 2020/early 2021.