August 22, 2016 by Jay Minkin
Northeast Ohio has been in the spotlight recently from getting off the schnide with a professional sports title by the area basketball team, hosting a political party convention, and having our boys of summer contending for the pennant. Over the years musically, from Joseph Arthur to Jason White, we also have had our day in the sun boasting about our favorite native sons. Riding that championship wave, there might not be a better guitar gunslinger in these parts than Roger Hoover. A talented songwriter who early on had toured America with bandmates or alone, lately has passed on chances for a life on the road away from his family in Kent, Ohio. Time creates changes, and thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, Hoover was signed by Last Chance Records to hopefully push him to the next level once again with the release of Pastures on October 7th.
Hoover, along with producer Ryan Foltz, took a very organic and spontaneous approach to recording the album. “Foltz is what I call a real producer” explains Hoover. “He tells it like it is, if it’s good, bad, or lacking something. I kept sending him songs and he would keep sending them back for revising. I kept thinking about Basho and his quote that the moon is brighter since the barn burned down during the writing process.” A fifteen year friendship and several recording sessions over with coarse of his career with the former member of the Dropkick Murphys gives Hoover that comforting sounding board. After scrapping most of songs he originally penned, Hoover created an entirely different concept in about a week about man’s station in life. “It’s about waking up to a world you don’t recognize anymore. Today time is going so fast … your working, raising kids, making dinner, and living on the edge of uncertainty. Life makes you find creative ways to survive, and eventually end up writing a record.”
The results were eleven gorgeous tracks mixing guitar picking and shredding with a lyrical expression of hope and optimism through tough times. Recorded at a cabin located in Northwest Pennsylvania and at Foltz’s Sheffield Lake house on Lake Erie, you’ll hear the fire crackle and the birds singing if you listen close enough. Hoover collected some of the most talented players to back him up including young phenom guitarist Ray Flanagan, his brother Russ Flanagan on keyboards, the rhythm section of Kevin Martinez on bass and Danny Jenkins on drums from The Speedbumps, and wife Ysabel Hoover adding harmonies. Additional bass and drums on the recordings included longtime friend Doug McKean, a former bandmate most notably with The Magpies, and Foltz respectfully.
His Ohio upbringing gave him a lens on the life of the area’s working class population, which grew to a talent for turning observation into poetry. The opening number “Give What You Get Back” is chock full of hillbilly karma that Hoover wrote in Little Rock, Arkansas based on a conversation he had with two guys at a showcase who arrived after working their blue collar job. The message of I’m here, I’m struggling, but I’m doing my best tells how reaching for The American Dream like our parent’s generation did is over. One of the songs that came from the cabin recordings was “Always On My Mind”, a love song dripping with folklore centered on a Lake Erie captain who was late arriving to set sail, a ship which eventually was lost in a storm with no survivors, because of a woman. The album’s first single is titled “Something In My Heart” that Hoover wrote for a young lady who would eventually be his wife. At the time, Hoover was a damaged man emotionally and had given up on music. It was Ysabel who helped him peel away the barriers and not only allow him to reflect upon himself, but to see that there was something in his heart. The closing number, “Life We Create” was recorded live late at night on one take after a long session inspired by yelling out “let’s just do this like we’re playing the south side of Chicago in 1951”.
Hoover may be the next local musical export to garner a national listening audience. Touring in support of Pastures will include an exclusive showcase at Found Object in Nashville on September 24th along with a local performance at Peninsula’s intimate and historic GAR Hall on October 15th. Look for Roger Hoover traveling through your town and show him some love as he chases that ring. The bandwagon will save a spot for you.