Album Reviews

Will Hoge

Will Hoge

Artist:     Will Hoge

Album:     Anchors

Label:     Thirty Tigers

Release Date:     08.11.2017

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Unlike many artists who now call Nashville home, Will Hoge is a native. Listen. You can hear it in his voice. Like Chris Stapleton, he’s one of the few who straddle the line between commercial country and Americana, and, like Stapleton, he’s a damn good songwriter—so good that he made his living for four years writing songs for other artists. Despite success, and having hit #1 on the Billboard Country charts for the Eli Young Band’s recording of his song, “Even If It Breaks Your Heart,” Hoge took a gamble and decided to start recording his own material again. This is the stunning result.

Hoge is literate folk, classic country, and heartland rock n’ roll, depending on the tune. He develops rich character portraits and comes across honestly, often with lines that most of us can relate to. Listening to a tune like “This Grand Charade” with lines like “you put your makeup on and don’t even look my way/ we pass in the hall and you’re like an ghost running away,” you’d probably not realize that Hoge is a happily married man with two children. Just as you react to lines like “There’s some seeds you plant that never grow” from “The Reckoning” and “it ain’t the knowing that it’s over/it’s the watching it slip away,” from “Cold Night in Santa Fe,” you retreat back to the optimism in the single, “Little Bit of Rust,” performed with Sheryl Crow.

Hoge has the stature to recruit outstanding session musicians and surrounds himself with respected Nashville sidemen: drummer Jerry Roe, bassist Dominic Davis, guitarists Brad Rice and Thom Donovan along with multi-instrumentalist Fats Kaplin. No slouch vocally, Hoge’s timbre often soars while delivering the right dose of wisdom and emotion. It seems as if he’s equally comfortable in classic country or slashing rock ‘n’ roll tunes. You can just feel the enthusiasm of him busting out. “I hit a wall,” says Hoge. “I was doing the best touring of my career and I had a great steady gig writing songs, but I was falling out of love with being in a band. I didn’t have a good answer when I asked myself, ‘Why am I still doing this?’ So I walked away. I had to figure out what was next.”

There’s plenty to digest here, both serious and a bit frivolous, too. Listen to “Seventeen,” where he hearkens back to his own days in a garage rock band, inspired by his six and ten year old sons who are trying to do the same thing. Hoge showcases his skills as both a songwriter and performer. The title Anchors implies that this is his foundation. Certainly the strongest album he’s made yet.

—Jim Hynes

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