Written in Sharpie on a Cardboard Egg Carton

Scott is someone I should really spend less time with. That said, here are some nice things he wrote about me (and my music & writing & humanity). Scott was one of the co-creators of that song I'm singing on YouTube that's had thousands of hits. Notice how I'm not providing a link? That's on purpose. Anyway. My point is that Scott is a good friend and I'm flattered by these words he wrote.

Somehow you just know it when you see it, or in this case hear it.  You can’t explain it.  It just is.  What “it” is in this case is the extraordinary ability of Todd Hoke to touch you with a song and a story from an angle that few would ever think to explore. 

I have been listening to Todd since long before his first CD, "Headed West On 10."  I still love "Trains Don’t Stop Here Anymore."  His second CD, "The Turning Of The Wheel,"  gave a sense of the true greatness of his songwriting gift.  "Spring Days" will live forever.  Play that one again Tyrone….. 

"Southland" has all the great qualities of Todd Hoke compressed into ten songs.  With this latest CD we get the complete package that demonstrates the maturing mastery of his craft.  These are songs that you will play over and over. 

He is a pretty good guy.  His mom actually told me that.  Even without that endorsement I will let his actions speak for themselves.  Every penny from the sale of "Southland" will go to help feed some of the less fortunate folks in our country.  Not just the profit, but every last cent goes to Feeding America.  Check them out at FeedingAmerica.org.

In the immortal words of Todd Hoke, “You are beautiful people.  Go out and do something important with your lives.”  and I would add get you a copy of "Southland" and buy someone dinner.

Scott McCarley, The Mixed Review

Via Facebook (the souce of all things good and/or kitten related)

I met Rob at a Folk Alliance conference--SERFA, to be more precise--and tricked him into having me perform as part of his series. I forgot some of my gear so had to perform my set with an upright mic stand for my guitar and uke (instead of a more user friendly boom stand). Despite that handicap, I was triumphant as documented in Rob's comments below:

Many thanks from the Summit Coffee Songwriters Showcase in historic Davidson, NC to Todd for sharing his wit and excellent fingerpicking. He kept a packed house very interested in his craft and delivered the goods right on time. Clearly a crowd favorite and great stories to accompany his professional presentation...we are looking forward to having Todd join us again!

Rob McHale, Summit Coffee Songwriters Showcase

Heartfelt Unsolicited Email

Joe Angel is a good friend who also happens to host a couple of Americana/Roots radio programs on KEOS (89.1 on your FM dial) in College Station, Texas. One time Paul Edward Sanchez and I appeared on Joe's show and presented him with a canned ham in appreciation for his good work. Another time I had Bill Passalacqua play my velcro wallet on one of my songs (it was challenging to mic, but Joe nailed it). Joe's heard a LOT of music is the point I'm not really making. And here's what he said about Southland:

"I received your latest CD yesterday.  It is rare that I sit and listen to a CD as soon as I get it, almost as rare as a new Todd Hoke CD.  But that's what Bev and I did last night.  We sat down and listened to the new Todd Hoke CD all the way through.  I love it; the production, the songs, everything about it. "

Joe Angel, "Random Routes," KEOS FM

Emailed Thankyou Note

Jean is the Volunteer Services Manager for Hospice of the Carolina Foothills and hired me to provide music for their volunteer appreciation luncheon. She sent me the following thankyou afterwards and said it was okay to share here and I'm doing so because she calls me "absolutely wonderful." I might put that on my next batch of business cards. (Enhancements to "absolutely wonderful" below are mine, not Jean's. Just fyi, there.)

Thank you so very much for performing for the Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon with
Hospice of the Carolina Foothills. You were absolutely wonderful. You adjusted
beautifully to the atmosphere playing soft background music when appropriate, then
stepping up to entertain the crowd, and even assisting as we presented the awards.
Your humor added to the fun of the day. We were fortunate to have you perform for
our volunteers. My husband and I personally enjoyed your music and songs so we
purchased three CDs, which we are enjoying at home. Again, thank you for making our
day special for the volunteers and staff. I hope that we will be able to hear you
perform again soon. 

Jean Pearson, Volunteer Services Manager, Hospice of the Carolina Foothills
Via Facebook (the widely respected source for photos of what you're eating)

Dorothy has been listening to and writing about music for years. She has forgotten more stuff than I'll ever know. Probably. I like the epic tone of her musings here. Like I'm a minotaur or something equally mythic and incomprehensible. That's probably just my spin on it though. I can explain the possum reference, but it'll cost you $20.

"...The possum reference can't be easily explained. I would have to explain Todd Hoke and so far as I know, no one has ever been able to do that adequately. But trust me, you'd like him."

--Dorothy Hamm

Endorsement Written at My Insistence

This--from Denise Williams of Hillbilly Haiku--is more of an endorsement than a review. It might serve as a review of me as a human, I guess. Should I ever seek public office I'll have it up on billboards I'm sure:

So, here's the thing about Todd Hoke: He's a mighty, mighty man in a guy-next-door suit.

Oh sure, he stacks rocks and takes pictures with his right foot in them, but when it comes to music, he's all heartass, no smartass. Unless smartass is funnier. then he's gonna go with smartass, no question.

And that is why I love him and his huge heartass.

Denise Williams, Hillbilly Haiku Houseconcerts

Facebook Comment

I know Roberta from SERFA (that's Southeast Regional Folk Alliance). She's funny. And talented. And knows how to both wear a hat and drink bourbon. Which makes her words ring extratrue. Ready? Here they be:

Listened to "Southland" all the way to Lexington, KY today. Really more enjoyable each time I listen. And the song "Southland" is not so much a song as it is a party.

Roberta Schultz, Raison D'Etre (and hatwearing bourbon drinker)

Mountain House Concerts

A few words from Connie. Connie knows a lot of words. I'm glad she stuck to the nice ones.

When Todd Hoke plays a house concert, the audience feels an immediate kinship. Todd's laid back style creates a down home rocking-chair-on-the-backporch event which everyone enjoys.

Taking his own observations of life and interpreting them in his own unique manner, Todd Hoke paints pictures of the world according to Todd. Combining comedy with tragedy and often times throwing in a brutally sharp wit comment, Todd's songs are journeys you must experience.

Our audience left the show feeling as if they had known Todd for years and are hoping he does another show soon. Your audience will feel the same.

Connie Gray, Mountain House Concerts

Damn Intellectuals

Lyman Grant is a friend of mine who is a writer-poet-all-around-swell-guy who was writing for a webjournal back when my 2nd album came out. He asked if he could review it and--knowing the quality of his writing--I gave him a copy. If I'd had his review prior to printing the CD I would've included it in the liner notes. Really good stuff, here.

Natalie Maines had it right the first time.  There are many of us who live in Texas who are ashamed that George Bush is Texas spawn.  But then Texas has fostered on the nation and the world all sorts of horror.  If it is any consolation to those who live outside the state—and I can’t suppose it is—we who live in the state suffer these horrors long before they cross state lines.  It’s a big state and it takes a long time to get out. 

But there is more than shock and awe in this state.  Some of us survive by singing our own local kind of blues, a Texas version of the singer-songwriter tradition.  Famously, this tradition has produced a great number of artists.  Willie Nelson, Jerry Jeff Walker, Guy Clark, Nanci Griffith, Iris DeMent, Lyle Lovett, Lucinda Williams, Townes Van Zandt and scores of others have somehow created something palliative and uplifting from whiskey, broken hearts, horses, beer, ancestors, highways, tomatoes, fishing, tequila, front porches, sunsets, and dogs.   Todd Hoke’s music grows from this rich tradition. 

In 2000 he released his first CD, Headed West on 10, produced by Ray Wylie Hubbard.  He has just released his second, The Turning of the Wheel, produced by Chris Gage.   The producers have certainly left their individual marks on the two disks.  Comparing them we can hear how Gage has relocated Hoke’s songs from Hubbard’s open-country campfires to jaunty, swagger-filled roadhouses.  Gage strips away the mandolins and dobros of Headed West on 10, and adds piano, steel and electric guitars, and drums.  Nor should I forget to mention Christine Albert’s witty background vocals.

The CD’s first notes from the first song, “Spring Days,” foretell the contents of the following eleven songs—a fiddle spritely leading a two-step, joined by bass, guitar, harmonica and a barroom piano.   Hoke rolls out a cast of characters—Maggie, Uncle Tyrone, Elsie the wonder cow—and adds the iconic images of spring—lemonade, crickets, fireflies, and owls.  In the chorus, he sings,

            lordy them spring days

            they drive my blues away

            with honeysuckle mornings

            and junebug afternoons

The best moments on the disk are those in which Hoke sings about the simple joys—cups of coffee, early morning walks, neighbors saying hello, the unadorned beauty of his wife.  I think he must be deep down a happy man.  He is also a bit of a mystic,  that odd, unexpected kind of Texan, of which there are a surprising number congregated in Austin, who takes volumes of William Blake, Walt Whitman, and Rainer Maria Rilke to the fishing hole.   Hoke isn’t telling us to “Shut up.  Be Happy.” Nor is he telling us to “Drink up and forget.”  He is telling us, instead, that if we look closely at that dragonfly and think about what we are looking at, we just might remember that there is more to life than our empty bank accounts.

When Hoke writes and sings the blues, I suspect and hope that they are more like exercises in sympathy and compassion than expressions of his own dark nights of the soul.  His portraits of down on their luck gamblers, drunks, abused women, the lonely and discarded are moving and sadly beautiful.  But they are portraits sketched by the confessional priest, not the penitent himself.  (So Hoke doesn’t quite take us to those places that Townes Van Zandt does.)  For this we should be happy and glad.  After all, we do not wish for there to be more sufferers, but we do wish that the fortunate hear the sorrow of those less fortunate.   This is not an example of Bush’s bizarre oxymoron, “compassionate conservatism,” but of that simple, old-fashioned and unmodified compassion.    As Hoke sings in “Mayberry,” his tribute to The Andy Griffin Show, “let’s all spread us a little kindness.  Unleash it upon the world and changes, changes shall be wrought.”   That’s a kind of liberation we can all live with!

My favorite song on the disk is the second to last, “My Own Day,” in which Hoke describes what the world would be like if he had a day made as he would wish: 

            no nation would be at war

            the guns would go dusty

            we’d forget what they were for

            the generals would go fishing

            we’d close the Pentagon

            if I had a day all my own

To my ear this is one of those classic songs that people will be singing for decades. I feel the same for the song “Short Time Here” from his previous CD.  In both, Hoke has sunk his roots deeper than the immediate influences of the Texas singer-songwriter tradition into the even richer traditions of classic folk music, at least into Woody Guthrie, perhaps as deep as the old Scotch Irish songs and ballads.  

So if you wonder what some Texans do during those late nights after suffering the stupidity, greed, and hubris of the Bush’s and the Enron’s, we listen to singers like Todd Hoke:

            when the dark has finally passed

            cling to the morning glory

            like the dew upon the grass

Lyman Grant, Damn Intellectuals

The Conroe Courier

This is an old review of my first album, and I'm including an excerpt here because I remember how excited I was to read it way back when. I was visiting my parents and was casually flipping through the entertainment section looking for The Jumble and there was a solid write up of MY album in my hometown paper. Pretty heady stuff. I don't seem to have the whole review anywhere, but elsewhere in the article Mr. Hand compared my vocals to those of Roy Orbison. Which is one of the funnier comparisons I've been part of.

There is an old saying in show business that performers are least appreciated in their own hometowns.  I hope we can prove that old saw false, because Todd Hoke, who is a native of Conroe, appears to be doing quite well as a singer and songwriter in Austin.  Hoke’s album, “Headed West on 10,” is a wonderful collection of his songs…from the very start, Hoke’s “I Love West Texas” rolled right down that highway, and I wanted to go with him.  HHHH (out of four)

Arvid Hand, The Conroe Courier

Mountain House Concerts

Just stumbled across this endorsement from a houseconcert I did in Austin a couple of years ago. The room was packed and I think we had a good time. There may have been wine involved.

Todd Hoke writes wonderful story-songs and delivers them in a unique half sung, half spoken manner. He is alternately heart felt and wistful. Todd yearns for a simpler time and a slower pace, his mythical "Mayberry" yet he is clearly grateful for life's blessings and his "Short Time Here."

But music is only part of his magic, our capacity crowd was equally captivated by his hilarious stage patter and dry sense of humor.

Austin Kessler, Mountain House Concerts (also of Live Oak Coffeehouse even longer ago)

random comment

Frankly, I've always thought of myself as the Water Pik for the mind, but Neti Pot? Hm. Okay then. Maybe I can cross over to the yoga and salinated nasal rinse market--that's where the real money lies. So I've heard.

"Todd Hoke is the Neti Pot for the mind."