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May 16, 2011 | by  | in Music |
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Spotlight on Jack Hooker

Recently, I have found myself really, really disliking the acoustic guitar. This is probably the after-effects of out-living the West Auckland party circuit, in which every second person is guaranteed to be able to ‘play guitar’, and would promptly swing into Metallica’s ‘One’. This would be shortly followed up by one of Bob Dylan’s many hit singles (not from the Christmas album, thank goodness). But y’know, before Dylan got all crazy & electric. I digress. I know there are probably/actually some/many fantastic players out there who are made to rival the shit ones, and despite my default Scrooge-ish attitude I have now found cause to be excited about the acoustic guitar in our very own fair city. Wellington-based guitarist Jack Hooker is an example of why the guitar is not another piece of musical equipment made redundant by ever-growing technology, notably the rising popularity of all that is synth and computer-based at the moment.

His EP, entitled EP, was written and prepared in the space of two weeks for a benefit concert in Christchurch. Current student at the New Zealand School of Music and composition major to boot, one might suspect Hooker’s work has distinct elements of art music in the sense of the experimental-seldom-listened-to-on-ZM kind of thing. However, the EP balances and maintains a mix of interesting and catchy musical themes that do not get boring or predictable by way of his picking style with aids to complexity in the melody and harmony. The manner in which he plays makes me suspect he was taught to play with a Spanish technique, outside of his listening influences, which he cites as the late American guitarists Jack Rose and Michael Hedges. It may be worth noting within the production of the EP, space has also become an important consideration, which gives the sonority of the guitar depth, but does not turn his pieces into ambient works. No, no, Hooker has written for guitar and stays instrumentally true to the music he writes. His attention to space may possibly derive from his non-acoustic influences such as Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and Sun O))). Make of that what you will, but the style in which he has developed seems to touch on everything from Sufjan’s Enjoy Your Rabbit album, elements of the Indian sitar, southern blues in combination with darker overtones from the earlier works by Jose Gonzalez. In fact, the EP reminds me more and more of Gonzalez with each listen, particularly in similarity in tonality and style to his treatment of chords on the track ‘A Thousand Moons’ which hearkens to the Gonzalez numbers ‘Deadweight On Velveteen’, and ‘All You Deliver’. Indeed, Hooker seems to have embodied a darker ‘Jose-ian’ style, which to my tastes is good, both in terms of musical ideas and honesty from the performer. Sometimes there may be call for a singer in acoustic works, but the complexity and coherence maintained within Hooker’s EP continues interest without the need for lyrics. This is music for guitar, and it’s music written for those who wish to think their beloved instrument sitting in the corners of their rooms, un-played and gathering dust, is still relevant today.

It is the release of guitar music like this, which makes people wish that they had learned how to play guitar properly, instead of merely downloading tab charts from Ultimate-guitar.com and sticking to high school talent quests. EP by Jack Hooker is a reminder to all of those out there who have become disenchanted with acoustic guitar music that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Recommended listening – The EP is available for listen and download at a small cost on Jack’s Bandcamp: jackhooker.bandcamp.com.

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