Saturday, December 24, 2016

Roger Hoover. Pastures

Roger Hoover. Pastures.
Last Chance Records, 2016.  Roger Hoover:

I’ve always associated Roger Hoover with the Whiskeyhounds, which tells you that I’m seriously out of date with his music and living in the past. He’s been with other bands and also on his own for years. I also think of him more as a rocker than the folk/blues/Americana singer-songwriter he really is (although he doesn’t want to be restricted to such labels), influenced by people such as Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen. I’ll try to catch up.

This new album has him singing a set of original songs, recorded in isolated places on Lake Erie and in Northwestern Pennsylvania. He’s out front and center on every song, although he has a fine group of musicians behind him, who seem to change duties from song to song, depending on whether their rockers, ballads, or something in between. In any case, Hoover describes the set as a song cycle, concerning the vicissitudes of life in the Midwest, with a touch of hope for the future. Subjects range from romance to work to more abstract questions about the meaning of existence and why we’re here. You can dissect the lyrics on the website, or you can just sit back and enjoy the music. Either way, the album is a success on every level.

The album itself had me bouncing back and forth: musically, I like the rockers and more raucous tunes, but lyrically, I prefer the ballads. “Dust” and “Life We Create” fall into the first category, the first being the only true rocker, the second more of a bluesy honky tonk, with some heavy piano work. But I can’t lay off the ballads, because the lyrics are touching and cutting, plaintive and hopeful. “Give What You Get Back” and “Cool Blue Starter” are among my favorites here. The one that combines everything perfectly is the title track, a loping, echoey, haunting song that speaks to desires for life and the future. In all cases, Hoover sings with an expressive, slightly gravelly tenor that simultaneously soars above the music and soaks into it. Hard to beat.

Roger Hoover will be appearing at the GAR Hall in Peninsula on December 30th, and at the Beachland Tavern in late February. I’m looking forward to seeing the show in person.

Personnel:  Roger Hoover (vocals, guitars, bass, percussion), Ray Flanagan (electric guitar, acoustic guitar, background vocals), Kevin Martinez (upright bass, background vocals), Russell Flanagan (piano, Hammond B3), Ryan Foltz (drums, percussion, trumpet, background vocals), Ysabel Hoover (background vocals), Danny Jenkins (drums), Doug McKean (electric bass).
Tracks:  Give What You Get Back, Oh How Times Have Changed, Dust, Just a Little, Always on My Mind, There’s Something in My Heart, St. John, Devil in the End, Cool Blue Starter, Pastures, Life We Create.

Jeff Wanser

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