Doug Hoekstra's sixth full-length album, "Blooming Roses," sounds like what you'd hear over the speakers while browsing through a Barnes & Noble. That's appropriate, because a lot of the songs by this Nashville, Tenn., performer could be enjoyed on the printed page without the music.
The music, as it is, is barely there - one of the first sounds on the disc, I think, is paintbrush drumsticks. The instrumentation is polished, as many of Nashville's top studio musicians worked on the album. But it would be nice if there were more catchy, rocking tracks like "Part of the Problem, Part of the Solution," which is driven by saxophone and propped up by piano.
The songs-as-stories offer a lot to soak up, though. It's not surprising that Hoekstra has published a collection of short fiction, because he uses solid storytelling principles throughout the 11 tracks on "Blooming Roses."
Doug Hoekstra will perform songs from his February release, "Blooming Roses," Saturday at the Eclectic Cafe.
Hoekstra's observations bring the seemingly mundane to life. When he tells you the "Naper Vegas Scrabble Club" "meets every other week in a three-story yellow house on a quiet, shady street," you want to reach into the bag and grab seven tiles.
He also turns his eye on people. We all knew a "Gavin Geist" in high school: "Short and squat, glasses round, good at trig and figuring pi."
If you spin
Artist: Doug Hoekstra.
Album: "Blooming Roses."
Genre: Easy listening.
Label: WingDing Records.
Highs: Hoekstra, who is also a short-fiction writer, has an impeccable eye for detail in his lyric writing.
Lows: The album needs more upbeat tracks like "Part of the Problem, Part of the Solution" so listeners don't doze off.
Like any self-respecting folk singer, Hoekstra also tackles wider issues. "Everywhere is Somewhere" opens with his trademark real-world details: In this case, he is describing a pretty girl sitting by a sunlit window. But then he gets inside her head and tackles the always always-looking-at-the-clock nature of our society. "Everywhere is somewhere/You're already there," he argues to the girl.
Hoekstra has a pleasant voice that never gets too emotional - sometimes this is good, because we're not asking him to be a John Mayer parody. But other times, it's too restrained. On "Disrepair," he's going through one of those days where all the shops are closed so he goes home to wallow over the one that got away. It's a lyrical downer, so it's odd that Hoekstra sounds as content as on the other 10 tracks.
He's got the songs, but I hope Hoekstra punches up the energy when he performs live, lest patrons fall asleep in their coffee - or book.
Hoekstra will perform at 9 p.m. Saturday at the Eclectic Cafe in downtown Brainerd.
On the Web: www.doughoekstra.com.
JOHN HANSEN, entertainment editor, may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5863.
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