Weekly Wire
Memphis Flyer Turn Up That Noise!

By Stephen Grimstead

FEBRUARY 8, 1999: 

Doug Hoekstra, Make Me Believe (One Hand Clapping)

Songs that tell a story worth repeating are rapidly becoming an endangered breed. While there’s no shortage of trendy chart-toppers with catchy lyrics, clever wordplay alone does not make for memorable listening. Thankfully, there are still a few talented singer/songwriters left who take pride in their craft, and Doug Hoekstra ranks right up there with the best of these modern practitioners on his latest release, Make Me Believe.

Although the “f” word (that would be “folk,” for the sensitive among you) is often evoked when describing Hoekstra and his music, that narrow classification doesn’t come close to fully encompassing his artistic realm. Hoekstra first came to the music world’s attention as a member of the Chicago-based alternative country band Bucket No. 6. With two critically acclaimed solo records under his belt (When The Tubes Begin To Glow and Rickety Stairs) and a change of venue from Chicago to Nashville, Hoekstra proves his mettle with his third effort, the diverse and satisfying Make Me Believe.

The trademarks of Hoekstra’s distinctive sound are magnified greatly through the punchy and widely textured production and engineering techniques utilized on Make Me Believe (courtesy of Scott Baggett, Robb Earls, Cliff Goldmacher, and Hoekstra himself), elevating the already-strong material to new heights. With able support from vocalist K.K. Falkner and a group of sympathetic instrumentalists including Pat Meusel (from Who Hit John) and the mysterious Angus Wahoo, Make Me Believe shines as the most fully realized project Hoekstra has tackled to date.

Of course, none of this would matter much if Hoekstra didn’t have the goods to back it up. Make Me Believe features some subtle but effective writing, from the opening onslaught of “Sam Cooke Sang The Gospel” all the way through to the meditative closing track, “Kudzu.” Hoekstra isn’t what you’d call a powerhouse vocalist, but his friendly, whispering tones involve the listener totally.

What will keep one returning to Make Me Believe is the sheer strength of the material – and every song is a Hoekstra original. He writes literate lyrics without a hint of pretension, and Make Me Believe plays like a classic short-story collection where every component is a handcrafted jewel that can stand alone or exist comfortably beside its contrasting neighbors. Highlights include “Choices,” “Kirkwood Hotel,” “Here And Now,” and “Atticus.”

Hoekstra and his ruminative music may be an acquired taste for those used to the flavor of the month, but Make Me Believe will linger on long after the “alternative” has gone totally flat.

Highly recommended, particularly for those who occasionally like to use their brains. – David D. Duncan

(Hoekstra’s new CD is scheduled for release next week.)

The Delta Queens, (Mama’s Got A) Monkey Lamp (Dangerous Monkey)

I must confess that my expectations for this CD were not high. All I knew about the Delta Queens was that they were (are) a local band who perform in full drag, looking a bit like Vicki Lawrence’s big-bosomed “Mama” character with a few slut-puppy touches thrown in for good measure. So I was pleasantly surprised to find that (Mama’s Got A) Monkey Lamp rips and snorts to an immodest degree, with a refreshingly raw live sound and some great tracks.

The opening cut, “Terrified,” has an almost punk intensity. On this and other tracks, Mama has traded in her housecoat for a full metal jacket, and the results are stunning. Lead vocalist Kirt Gunn’s throaty rumble and harmonica blend seamlessly with John Whittemore’s frenetic guitar (especially his greasy slide work). All your standard Southern female troubles are covered here – insanity, obesity, bad liquor, food as sex, and (of course) Jesus. Sometimes the Queens’ humor sinks a little too low for me, but their lyrics can be hilarious, luckily taking a back seat to the music, which is bluesy rock-and-roll and mighty tasty. My favorite track is “She’s Crazy,” a stalker romance with a sassy diatribe that rides on an intense Stonesy guitar riff. I’m not surprised to see that local musical godfather Jim Dickinson plays keyboards on this and several other songs. Monkey Lamp has that same swamp-noir feel to it that some of Dickinson’s own music delivers.

Hey, these guys may hit the stage looking like your Granny Edna, but they’re good. – Lisa Lumb

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