Being a big fan of Joel Hoekstra's previous recordings (The Moon is Falling / Undefined), I always look forward to hearing what he is going to do next. His penchant for creating progressive minded fusion rock, metal, etc makes for highly entertaining musical enjoyment, hints of humor, and stellar playng are mainstays in Joel's repertoire, so his touch is as good as gold in my personal opinion.
Joel presented this cd to me with a preliminary forewarning, that being, the fact that this particular cd was an acoustical adventure, a departure from his previous releases, which considering my taste for his other music meant I was going to be opening my hearing to the idea that Joel was not going to be ripping leads, while having Donati and Fierabracci creating radically odd time signatures behind him. Yet, I am no stranger to acoustical music, having enjoyed the company of some of the greats such as Kottke, Hedges, Degrassi, Finger, Steidl, Legg. So it was with keen interest that I attentively listened to this cd for the first time. Well much to my surprise, or maybe I was so surprised, Joel's acoustic songs are far more introspective and contemplative than I imagined, so much so, that I have a new appreciation for his versatility as an all-around guitarist.
The cd is comprised of 13 Acoustic songs, (duh), and each song is fairly short, yet the disc plays through quite nicely from start to finish. I really feel that his work on the acoustic is far more tasteful than that of most solo acoustic artists that I hear. This is not a showy, flatpicking type of music that one would hear from Kottke, or Tommy Emmanuel. But features songs that are very dramatic, melodic and heartfelt. I am not sure if Joel is a Phil Keaggy fan, but man do I hear a similar vibe to some of Phils' best work on this cd by Joel.
Looking back to my Keaggy collection, his excellent Beyond Nature recording sure comes to mind while I listen to this cd. Joel has that same touch on acoustic, each song is able to portray mental images beyond the well planned notations, phrasings and his graceful approach to songcrafting. I would place this style of music in a very unique category, being that it is not that of folk, rock, country, flatpicking, or the more accepted acoustical guitar offerings. It is a variety of styles and moods that are very relaxing to kick back and drift away to.
Joel now has two facets of his musical output to work from, the fusion/prog maestro, and now this masterful presentation of songs in the contemplative/acoustic mode. Both sides are pure bliss to my tastes, and Joel proves that it's better to let the music you love be the reasons to create, rather than following a formula for fan appeal. This is a sincere and high quality offering of music that is easy on the ears and mind. Give it a taste at his myspace, linked here.
MJ Brady, Proggnosis