Derek Hoke has crafted a collection of equally endearing and infectious songs for his long awaited sophomore release – Waiting All Night. Out August 21, 2012 on Electric Western / Thirty Tigers, Waiting All Night picks up right where Hoke left off with his first release Goodbye Rock N Roll. There is a significant difference here though. If Goodbye Rock N Roll was slow crafted, simmered in Hoke’s brain on low, and came to life on a lazy saw dust floor one night in town, then Waiting All Night was born under the lights on stage. It’s clear that Hoke and his band have been affected by the past years of playing week after week. Nashville has a way of doing that to a singer. A way of molding a voice around the lingering smoke and whiskey hanging in the air night after night. And first and foremost, Derek Hoke is a singer. The songs, even the ballads, reach out and yearn for a late night in a dark room. It’s the same feeling you get when you leave the house at 2am to catch last call…because if you don’t you might miss something. You might miss the steel guitar or meandering piano solos and telecaster riffs. Well, get out of the house, because you won’t want to miss a tune on Waiting All Night.
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 Waiting All Night, 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 three 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.
Continuing on their work with Goodbye Rock N Roll, Derek has once again paired up with long-time producer Dexter Green. On keeping the same crew but trying to craft something altogether different Hoke explains: “Songs like “Hope We Make It On Love” were definitely part of the afterglow of GBRNR. “Dex and I were pretty keen on not repeating ourselves so I took a different approach to most of the material. Mainly writing it on a ’68 Telecaster as opposed to an acoustic guitar. The White Album was a big influence on the change of styles.” Amongst the usual cast of characters in Derek’s band, this album sees some wonderful appearances by Jason Isbell, The Greenhornes, Chris Scruggs, Cory Chisel, and Caitlin Rose. “We employed most of the same cast as before, but added some folks whom we met after the last record. Dex was recording a single for The Greenhornes and asked if they’d stick around a do a few with me. We all had a blast and it turned out really great. Scruggs is an evil genius. He plays the steel guitar so effortlessly and with a sense of wonder and amusement.”
The record’s opening track, “Lonely Street”, carries a melancholy with it only obtained by experience. The opening lines set the stage perfectly:
“Well, nobody talks around here, they just listen. Hoping to hear about this thing called love. And every heart in this town, there’s something missing. Everyone praying to the stars up above.”
Hoke doesn’t let the listener dwell on it too long though, soon enough the piercing bluesy intro riff to the title track Waiting All Night cuts through and it’s very clear the band is locked into something really, really great. Even the fiddle, country pickin’ dance number “Sweetheart Letter” sits right at home next to the blues and the lonely crooner songs. Hoke seems to have a masterful way of taking all those influences, those early Americana sounds of southern delta and Appalachia, and crafting something completely all his own. If you can say anything about it, his music is all his own, it’s honest.
With “I Hope We Make It On Love” Hoke once again tells the entire story in one line: “I hope we make it on love, ’cause the money’s all gone”. Those classic turns of phrase are this songwriter’s specialty. “Gone Gone Gone” and “So Quiet” might find you humming their melodies for days, but “Love May Die” is clearly where Hoke starts to push outside his own comfort zone. “Love May Die is a glimpse of things to come.
Even Hoke’s version of Bob Dylan’s classic 1969 love ballad “Tonight I’ll be Staying Here With You” seems brand new. Anytime an artist covers a hero, the intent is to honor the song while letting your own voice bleed through, and Derek along with Michah Hulscher’s masterful piano have done just that. “Mean Mama” and “Cumberland Blues” could both have been written and been hits over 50 years ago in music city, but once again they are clearly and unmistakably Derek Hoke songs.
By the time you get to the end of Waiting All Night, you just want to start it over. It creates such a specific, unforgettable mood that I’m afraid it won’t last unless I keep it playing. Over and over again. Maybe it’s Hoke that is the evil genius after all. Either way, Waiting All Night is here and music is that much better off for it.