By August Edwards
What's exhilarating about Albuquerque music, and part of what makes it worth a damn to be invested in, are the powerhouses that continue to make it flourish. There are musicians here that are worthy of sycophancy (in an ideal world where sycophancy wouldn’t get in the way of musical integrity). Adam Hooks is without a doubt someone I’ll follow ‘til I can't any longer.
Hooks is a lot of punk, a lot of Grateful Dead, and in case there was any question, a lot of country. He’s someone who lives for the music that has built him, and he has been dedicating his life to creating similar experiences for whoever will listen by giving his all to whatever outlet he’s got. His latest project, Adam Hooks & The Huckleberries, is solid, secure country, and it contains some of his most authentic sounds.
We’ve seen some tremendous acts come forth as a result of COVID-19; Adam Hooks & The Huckleberries is one such band. In a sweet swirl of country, rock, and soul, the band began recording So Far Gone in November 2020 after a summer of writing and communicating remotely. The quartet's music is timeless and is impelled by a duty towards smart lyricism.
The band is comprised of Hooks on vocals and acoustic guitar, Joshua Lee on electric guitar, Ry Warner on bass and a banjo feature, and Dustin Hoag on drums. The album was also made possible by a slew of other incredible musicians: Scott Gaeta on keyboard; Emily Anslover on fiddle; Dave Devlin on dobro and mandolin; Red Light Camera’s vocalist Amanda Machon; Sarah Rowe singing in “Samantha (Bad News);” and Eddie Brewer on backup vocals on “Pay No Mind” and “Minor Villain.” The passion and good-natured collaboration of So Far Gone is so easily heard upon first listen.
The album begins with “Brown County Blues,” which presents itself as gossamer but is as gritty and ironclad as they come. It contains some lyrical content that could have spawned from Hooks’s own experience growing up in South Dakota. The song provides a soft incline towards the title track, “So Far Gone.” Here we have a classic, slice-of-life portrait that only a country rock song could carry.
“If You’re Still Up (I’m Down),” featuring Machon, is going to make plenty of couples happy once it’s played in bars and breweries—the hard-fought love song is easy to relate to and is also guaranteed to make you reach for your phone to call that one person. This slides into the exciting opening riff of “Pay No Mind,” which is just plain fun.
“Thy Will Be Done” is a foot-stomping revenge song—which is essential for any country album—but it’s particularly poignant because it follows the heartbreaking “For Jacob.” “For Jacob” laments the loss of a loved one from the perspective of a childhood friend as well as a parent. “I heard they kept the porch light on / For 27 years, they never once locked their front door / I heard you finally came home,” Hooks sings in the song that he pushed his voice to a staggering peak.
“The Deed” is rollicking—a true get-up-and-dance-er. The album concludes with “All My Friends” which is absolutely ideal for staring far off into the New Mexican sunset.
The gorgeous thing about country is it can fill emptiness in your soul in a way that other genres can’t quite pull off. Still, it’s not totally easy to get right; it should be a delicate balance of word twirling, melody, and barrels of truth. And that’s what Adam Hooks & The Huckleberries has here.