Though he might be known for the madcap polka parties he throws at the Happy Dog as DJ Kishka, Justin Gorski actually listens to a wide range of music.
“I have always loved music from the ’50s and ’60s,” he says via phone. “When I grew up, there were ten people in the house, and I always listened to big band music and the Beatles and Chuck Berry and the Who.”
Tomorrow, he’ll release Home, an alt-country album he recorded as Big Hoke, a long-running solo project of his that dates back nearly 20 years.
To celebrate the album's release, he’ll host a virtual release party at 8:30 tomorrow night on Facebook.
Gorski spent several years performing with the Magpies, a terrific local act led by talented singer-songwriter Roger Hoover, before he turned his attention to writing his own material.
“The Magpies broke up, and I started writing my own songs,” he explains, adding that he’s been so busy running his restaurant, Cleveland Vegan, and organizing the annual Dyngus Day event, that he had little time to record the songs. “I started playing out again at Brothers Lounge, and it was really cathartic.”
Written and performed by Gorski and produced by Gordy Quist at his studio in Austin, the album was mixed by Grammy-winning engineer Tom Schick.
“I met Gordy on the road with the Magpies,” says Gorski. “They were further ahead than we were. They took to us and were really nice. We got to open for them in Austin and played a couple of festivals. I stayed in touch throughout the years. We remained friends. Gordy had gone in with a friend of his and bought a studio. He asked me to come down there and record.”
The studio features some great gear, including microphones that Queen’s Freddie Mecury used and a guitar that Brian Eno once played.
“One of my buddies thought the vocals on the record sounded great," says Gorski. "I think anyone sang in those microphones would sound great. I haven’t gotten to record and play music with people like that in years, so every day I was practically crying because it was so great. I try not say this in front of my wife, but it was probably one of the best weeks of my life.”
The album commences with "Wooden Meditation," an undulating instrumental number inspired by blues great John Lee Hooker.
“Some of my friends think I should have picked a faster track for the first song, but it sets the mood," Gorski says when asked about the song.
The musicianship on the album really distinguishes it; Gorski recruited a horn section and backing singers as well. There's even pedal steel and cello on the album.
“It was pretty magical how it all happened,” he says.
Gorski originally lined up a 12-piece band to play a local release party, but the spread of coronavirus derailed those plans. As a result, he went to the Slovenian National Home last month and pre-recorded a segment while practicing social distancing.
“We’ll have different camera angles and backgrounds and a couple of music videos,” he says of the virtual release party. “There’s two new music videos I’ll be showing too. I asked [local singer-songwriter] Brent Kirby to open for us. He couldn’t do it, but he sent me a video for this release. It should be a little more engaging than your average Facebook event.”
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