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Doug Hoekstra | Around The Margins (Inbetweens/Postbus)
Whether tackling Bob Dylan's epic Isis or his lover's addiction to nicotine, Doug Hoeskstra exudes confidence in his half-spoken, seemingly lazy drawl of a voice. I say 'seemingly' because once you quit skirting around the margins of these songs to focus on their heart, you realise that there is shape and bend to every syllable, as important as the compelling tales they are relating. Such confidence means sharing the mic with the likes of Nirva Dorsaint and Antonio Meeks (Fisk Jubilee Gospel Singers) or the Shawn Colvin-esque stylings of Colleen Burke Kave, who take on a variety of supporting roles, (Dorsaint duetting on the waltz Desdemona, Burke Kave taking the lead on The Life We Love). Hoekstra draws you into this long (64 minute) album with his storytelling skills, sharing his thoughts on ageing on the first song Lost Among The Ruins - "I can't imagine sorrow, like seeing your partner die / Or living with the knowledge you're losing your own mind / If I try to slip on their shoes, the air is rare but clean / As I take a look down the road to wherever there will be" - before Birmingham Jail adds the gospel chorus so reminiscent of Dylan's Street Legal. The constant shift in styles and inventive instrumentation ('spinning Pignose' anyone?) keep the listener involved, as the jokey Laminate Man ("There's a space behind his eyes / Filled with names he can't forget") gives way to a childhood revisited ("The train rocks on into the city / Like a lover searching for a groove / The rhythm sends me backwards spinning / To a place where there was less to prove" - Houses Flying), before That's Where He Was Living details a case of suspected uxoricide - "He was living in Grand Rapids when she died / Dogs howling kept him up all night / Begging for a pardon, Bible at his side / That's where he was living when he died." In stark contrast to Dylan's fiery live Rolling Thunder-era rendition, Hoekstra's Isis, is a seven minute excercise in restraint, the ample lyrics narrated atop a percussion-less bed of acoustic guitar, trumpet, alto sax and clarinet - another example of Margins' plentiful pleasures.

Matt Dornan
CWAS #7 - Spring 2001