Derek Hoke did not mean to write such a downer album, but once he realized how much he was holding in, he decided it was time to purge. Hoke, whose songs tend more toward a Hank Williams-inspired rockabilly than flat-out sadness, grew up in Brunswick, Georgia where, at least in his eyes, Garth Brooks was equal to Fugazi. “If I was on a therapist’s couch, this is what I would be talking about,” he tells me about Bring the Flood, his forthcoming album, out this Friday. While his signature rockabilly vibe is still here, this new album finds Hoke retreating into himself and his experiences. Inspired by long drives between shows while touring Southern Moon, watching towns that were once hotbeds of life now filled with ghosts and tumbleweeds go by. “I started feeling for these people who are feeling forgotten,” Hoke said. “I couldn’t do fun songs anymore.”
The songs may not be fun in the sense many fans have come to expect from the singer-songwriter artist, but they’re dark and pensive and Hoke as hell: he calls it “quietbilly,” a portmanteau of quiet rockabilly, a nod toward the rockabilly make up of his band and his quiet nature. “Just a Man” finds him reckoning with an inability to change. “So Tired” is a psychedelic plea for something, anything, to take a load off his mind. “When the Darkness Comes” is a sensual blues song, while “Heavy Weather” picks up a few gospel flourishes and ends with a very Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band jam. It’s clear the album was written in the time between the election last year and the inauguration a few months later. Coming to terms with the state of the world isn’t anything new for musicians, of course. Artists like Jason Isbell, the Drive-By Truckers, and Shovels and Rope have all, within the last year or so specifically, released albums whose central thesis seems to be reckoning either with personal privilege or the violence being perpetuated throughout society. It makes sense Derek Hoke is no different when it comes to stepping outside a comfort zone for the greater artistic message.