Darren Hoff was part of the beloved and now defunct Austin-based country juggernaut The Weary Boys. It’s been nearly two years and a day job since the Wearies flamed out and Darren is the last one to surface with a new project. Better late than never, I say.
When it came time for Darren to form a band he went back to where he started, calling upon folks he’d met and known via the Austin music scene. Guitarist Ben Massey had been a mainstay in the area since relocating from Maryland, while drummer Brandon Burke was initiated almost by accident when he agreed to play drums on the eve of a show. Keyboardist Jim Hawkins came to know Darren through Darren’s aforementioned day job at a music store. He was originally just working studio sessions, adding keys and acoustic guitar accompaniment to songs in the studio, but somewhere along the line it was decided that he should become a full share member. Finally, along came guitarist-freshly-turned-bassist Gregg White, and The Hard Times were formed.
I’ll be honest, when I first started listening to Darren’s album I wanted it to be The Weary Boys, and when it wasn’t anywhere close I was disappointed in the cd and put it away. As time passed I got to thinking about what I wrote when I was reviewing the new Lucero album, asking if it was fair for fans to expect certain things from bands and what was the band’s obligation to those expectations. Is it fair for me to summarily dismiss Darren’s album because it wasn’t The Weary Boys?
No. It wasn’t. So I pulled the album off the cd rack and took it back to the car.
What Darren did, while ignoring my personal desires to hear a new Wearies album, was make an utterly fantastic country music record. While some people might be put off by the fact that it doesn’t really break any new ground, I am not one of them and on closer listen it turns out that this record is pretty much exactly what I should have expected from Darren, based on his songs from The Weary Boys. All of which makes me feel like even more of an asshole. So if you’re a Weary Boys fan like me, I’d suggest you check your prejudices at the door and check this album out. If you’re a fan of the country music your dad listened to, then you’re gonna enjoy this album.