Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Josh Niles, Nashville, TN
The way that Derek Hoke makes the breaks sound like an easy sun or a slippery drink going down, is about as nice as you'd ever want it to be. These are the spoonfuls of sugar, or the shots of whisky that come when you've reached the end of your rope and you've discovered that all you've got to count on is yourself and that's not all that bad. You're always up for a nightcap. You're always bound to be around, with a shoulder or two to rely on.
The breaks that fall on the characters in Hoke songs are of the sort that never get modernized. They are the same old problems that people have been worked over by since they first started interacting with one another. He sings of lonely streets - rarely of easy streets - but the mood that he brings to each of them is one of cautious optimism. It might even be more than that. We hear, in the way that he writes and sings about heartbreak, something of a wink and a sigh. He's got a tobacco pipe that he'll light and there's little that's shaky in his demeanor. People will come and go - the same with love. It doesn't mean that it doesn't sting for a spell, but there's no stopping it.
The cherry tobacco, and those slow pulls, the just as metered exhales help signal the balance kept. He sings about a woman who returns home at night through the window, sneaking around when the moon is up. He moans only slightly about that love having dried up and left, but Hoke can't help but acknowledge that he's been sleeping like a log since she's been gone. The lights have already been shot out, brought on by boredom and loss. The ones that are still around, still glowing in the right corners, with the right people, shine on the nights rising and falling. They shine on with crossed fingers, with something that borders on anticipation. Hoke sings, "Nobody talks around here/They just listen/Hoping to hear about this thing called love." Some are just hoping to see its return. They're willing to patiently wait it out, believing in the cycles.