The Hoyle Brothers

The Mermaid Lounge

October 25, 2004

So this is what real country music sounds like. I heard my share of Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash through the years, but I never explored the frontier of country music that existed before alt-country and this thing called Americana got hip. My interest in old, authentic country music increased after seeing Chicago quintet The Hoyle Brothers at The Mermaid Lounge Monday night. We don't have music like The Hoyle Brothers in New Orleans. We've got Mike West bluegrass and Jeremy Lyons rockabilly, but nobody does it straight here like The Hoyle Brothers. They were lead singer Jack Hoyle, lead guitarist Steve Hoyle, pedal steel guitarist Brian Hoyle, upright bassist Josh Hoyle, and drummer Lance Hoyle.

The band played simmering honky tonk music full of pedal steel solos and shuffle rhythms. The songs were concise and supremely catchy in their simple beats and no-frills melodies. I enjoyed every song, and I didn't question anything they did. They structured their songs very well. Most of the music moved at a pensive, leisurely pace, but the band also fit in some slower, cry in your beer-type ballads. Responsible for getting the grizzled grittiness or heartbreak across was Jack, whose fatherly deep and gruff yet smooth voice complemented the music so well. Jack was also the picture of a country lead singer--tall, slicked hair, broad shoulders. The kind of guy who would have been a good extra on a straw-shuffling scene in "Of Mice and Men." The other band members also looked like country guys with their cowboy hats and patterned, wide-collared shirts. They didn't have a fake authentic look, though. All of the guys were from central Illinois, and my guess is that they really should have been born in Texas.
The group took their musical influences from musicians like George Jones, Merle Haggard, and Webb Pierce, according to their website.

The band played a few songs with trucker concerns, and their penchant for this theme became clearer when I saw these words on a bumper sticker on their website: "Please don't tell my folks I'm a trucker. They think I'm a piano player in a whorehouse." The band played a Kris Kristofferson cover and a Jones cover featured on their 2004 debut album, "Back to the Door."

If the band is just starting out and they sound like this, look out world. I can only hope The Hoyle Brothers take over Nashville and take contemporary pop country off its high horse. There was a thing called...

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