Claudia Hoyser – [Album]

Claudia Hoyser – [Album]

Sunday, 12 March 2023

Claudia Hoyser
Red Lights Turning Green
(GFI Music)
Every now and then, an artist takes you by surprise. Who would expect the Aging Punk to love a Country singer? And not an alt-country artist, either; a pure, down-home Country artist. I am now officially a Claudia Hoyser fan.

A local record store (Record Archive — if you’re ever in Rochester, NY) provides pizza and beer and free music every Wednesday. I often stop in to see what they have. Hoyser was playing one week. Honestly, I expect to have my pizza and beer and listen to a couple of songs and then move on. I stayed for her whole performance though, I was hooked.

Hoyser was the total package. I mean that in a music industry way, not a sexist one. She had the voice, the songs, the looks and the stage presence. It was not hard to see star potential. I hesitate to predict stardom for her, only because I don’t want to jinx her (my predictions, on anything, rarely come true).

Red Lights Turning Green is Hoyser’s debut album and it lives up to everything I saw that evening. Her voice can bring tears to your eyes before you even know what she’s singing about. Naturally soft and caressing, she can certainly turn on the power when it’s called for, although she is neither a belter nor a screamer. Instead, she sings like a best friend offering you comfort; sharing stories of her own struggles and then telling you to get up and kick some butt.

Red Lights Turning Green is an album about struggle; the struggles of love and the struggle to create the life you want. The opener, “Curtains,” places the singer on stage as the curtain rises, ready to do her thing. The title song is about her determination to keep going and to move as soon as the time is right (“Turn the mountains in hills/ I keep trying on my will / Put the struggles in the back seat/ Pedal to the floor/ The red light’s turning green.”) The theme continues through “Tried to Try” (self-explanatory), and “Not For Sale,” about not selling out. The album closes with “Willin’” (“You can’t start living/ Unless you are willin’”), rounding out the theme.

Love can be a struggle too, and she certainly tackles that. Sometimes “loving you is like a summer song” (“Summer Song”), but there’s also “some kind of wicked heartache.” (“Wicked” — “I’m so mad I’d like to break everything we ever had.”) But again she is determined to fight through it. In “Bring on the Cold” she sings, “I’ve got a coat full of broken hearts on my back/ and a scarf of the words that made them crack/… So bring on the cold.”

The musical backing is fairly standard country, complementary to her voice but never overwhelming it. There are tasteful flourishes of banjo, mandolin, and lap steel providing highlights, but the instrumentation is primarily there to support her vocals.

If I have one disappointment with the album it is that it leans towards slower songs. The first half is very mellow. Things pick up a bit with “Bring on the Cold” and “Outlaw” in the second half, but even they are mid-tempo. She has much livelier material in her repertoire, songs about drinking beer and racing cars (not the same song, to be clear), but there’s no sign of them. On the other hand, they might have disrupted the flow and the theme. She albums are coherent statements, some are just collections of songs. As it stands, Red Lights Turning Green is a solid and coherent whole.

Hoyser has a strong presence on You Tube, including videos for all the songs here, as well as multiple covers of classic country and rock songs (I recommend her versions “Turn the Page,” “Wild Horses,” and “Jolene”). Definitely worth checking out are “Duke Devlin” (on this album), about a man who went to Woodstock in 1969 and never left, and “Small Town Motels” (not on this album), which placed first on the CMT video chart for seven weeks straight and counting. Maybe she does have star potential. [G.Murray Thomas]


Red Lights Turning Green is out now. Buy it here, directly from Claudia Hoyser’s official website.

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