Amidst the hurly burly of raucous rock’n’roll and the earnestness, drama and tears of much country and folk music, there’s a place for well-measured and carefully crafted intelligent song craft. Our touchstones are probably the like of Van Dyke Parks, Randy Newman, Tom Waits and Jackson Browne (add your own favourites to this list). So here, filing his application to join this estimable bunch, is Doug Hoekstra, a Nashville based songwriter and author who is releasing his first album after a ten-year sabbatical from music.
The Day Deserved is one of those albums which slowly creeps into your life. It’s polished, all the songs are gems which have been cut to perfection but they reflect darkly the world around them. Hoekstra leads his note perfect ensemble on a variety of styles ranging from lounge lizard sleaze and sophisticated syncopations to dreamlike reveries and tender, introspective murmurings. Amidst all this, Hoekstra captures various scenarios with a forensic precision to his lyrics- acutely penned portraits of his protagonists.
The album opens with the seemingly slight, almost yacht rock beat of Seaside Town with Hoekstra waxing poetically about an artist gone missing, but as the song progresses the waters get choppier and the band become ever more convoluted with David Henry’s violin adding some Eastern mystique. Higher Ground’s limpid guitars then hove into view on a lengthy song, ostensibly written about the plight of Pacific islanders whose homes are disappearing under rising tides, but given a universal sheen in the chorus. The subject of Unseen Undetected is that of immigrants hiding under the radar and here Hoekstra sticks more firmly to the topic, singing about refugees in the States and Vietnam and Holland while the band strike up an impressive bustle of sounds with glistening guitars and tremulous violin before ending in an excellent Beatles’ like coda.
Gandy Dancer finds Hoekstra tip toeing into early Waits/Rickie Lee Jones territory on a blustery and bluesy outing where he is ably supported by his co singer, Hannah Fairlight, while Keeper Of The World finds him on the other side of the Atlantic on a breezy number. This is about a bookshop romance and has the innocent delight of the likes of The BMX Bandits in its wonderfully naive delivery. However, Hoekstra digs deeper into frailty on several songs, reminding this reviewer of both Lou Reed and Dan Stuart, the ex Green On Red front man. Late Night Ramble is vulnerable in its restrained delivery with guitars gently scrubbed over a subdued beat and Grace is a another hushed affair given some extra depth by the mellow sax of Jimmy Bowland. The closing Outside Looking In, a song inspired by watching baseball but positioning the scoreboard operator as the ultimate outsider seeing all is another wonderfully realised slow motion walk on a not so wild side.