Derek Hoke
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Derek Hoke

Nashville, Tennessee, United States

Nashville, Tennessee, United States
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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.
(Steve Haruch, Nashville Scene) - Nashville Scene


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
DISCovery Award.
Robert K. Oermann
- Music Row Magazine


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


Discography

Goodbye Rock N Roll LP

Photos

Bio

Derek Hoke has said goodbye to rock n roll. Kind of. At least thats what he sings in the opening lines of his new solo debut album, Goodbye Rock N Roll. But Derek, what oh what, did rock n roll ever do to you to make you leave her so? The story might end on the streets of Nashville for now, but his love affair with music, even his erstwhile love rock n roll, began long ago amongst the South Carolina country side and Hee-Haw reruns on Sunday evenings.

Born in Brunswick Georgia - a self taught guitarist, composer, singer, and loner - Derek's first love was the theatrics of KISS, but not until his Grandfather planted the country music seed in his brain by playing it constantly while he was young. Not your dad's country, your granddad's country. The REAL country.

After one listen to Goodbye Rock N Roll, it is apparent young Derek was listening. Like most in his line of work, Derek has moved around. While growing up in Florence South Carolina, his parents divorced when he was 6. He cut his teeth playing guitar in bars around the state, moved to Greenville North Carolina when he was 18, worked in record shops and movie theaters, immersing himself in art and music.

After a few years and visit to Nashville Tennessee to see the likes of Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, and Los Straightjackets, Hoke decided to move to Nashville. He slept on floors in crowded houses, played around town in almost every venue that would have him, went on tour working for Ricky Skaggs for 3 years and saw almost every state in the union. While these all seem to sideline Derek on his way to becoming the artist he is these days, they were clearly important on his body of work and sound. He is a man that embodies his experience, both with his constant relationship with music and his travels in life.

Now at home in Nashville, Derek started recording what would be Goodbye Rock N Roll in the winter of 2008 with producer Dexter Green. It was time to capture his sound and that's exactly what he did. The result is a "throw-back " record with a modern flair. No Nudie Suits required here. Sit back, sip a drink, and the sounds take the listener to a river honky tonk somewhere in the American south.

"The Finer Things" is a standout dance number where the singer explains he "just wants the finer things in life", such as "a 3-legged dog, a beat up truck ... a 2-dollar suit, a longneck bottle ... a mean ol' woman I can call my wife"..... naturally Derek. We feel you. "Where'd You Sleep Last Night" is another polished mover. A song that gets you singing along like you've heard it a thousand times. The best part is, you HAVEN'T. This is where Hoke excels over and over again, with great melodies and rhythms so familiar you assume they might be covers.

Well, guess what, they're not, they just feel classic. "Patsy Cline's 'Walking After Midnight' was a constant inspiration," says Hoke about the album's inspiration. "I want to write songs like THAT." Not good times all the time, "End of The River" finds Derek recalling his hometown, and trying to find himself amongst his early memories.

Any which way you cut it up, Derek Hoke might have travelled a long road, but he is just getting started. In the bluegrass world, they introduce every player in the band and their home town. Well, keeping with the simple traditions he seems to admire and capture so well, ladies and gentleman, I give you Derek Hoke. From Nashville Tennessee. Of Music City he says "It took me a long time to get here ... this IS my home."

Come to think of it, after spending an evening with this record, I don't miss little ol' rock n roll at all.

Goodbye Rock N Roll is available from Electric Western Records.

Electric Western Records
www.electricwesternrecords.com
P.O. Box 60202
Nashville, TN 37206