Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
It’s pretty clear that Hoge knows what he is doing. This is his tenth studio album and he has learned a thing or two about songwriting, singing, and recording. The writing is the work of a pro. Someone with great command of the English language and the ability to phrase words in a novel way. I was truly moved by Hoge’s writing on more than a few occasions while listening.
Will wrote a very poignant song about the breakup of a marriage. This Grand Charade (Track 2) is a very raw account of what happens when a relationship deteriorates. Actually, this song is one of the more observant and insightful accounts of a relationship gone south:
Oh, but nobody can tell 'Cause we play the part so well Fool 'em all little by little, more everyday The truth is we made a mistake We ain't that happy couple on the wedding cake It's you and me darlin' just livin' this grand charade.
This is an account by someone who has lived through this. It is so well written and produced that sometimes it is easy to forget that this is a sad song. The music that accompanies the singing is perfect. Just enough instrumentation to give it tons of interest, but not too much where it would interfere with Hoge’s singing.
Will Hoge hails from Franklin, TN, just outside of Nashville. He credits his style to his musician father’s influence and a very large record collection. I am sure Will has many influences, but I hear a little Steve Earle and John Hiatt. Hoge’s voice has the right amount of gravel and smoothness to make him a natural singer that can sing Americana with the best of them.
The first track, The Reckoning opens like an After The Gold Rush era Neil Young song. It quickly takes a turn in another direction. This song is true stunner. The words and singing are spun together like a master tailor with golden thread. This song is truly outstanding and the more I listen, the more I like. Another sad song, but an absolutely brilliant one. This song stirs up a lot of emotions, which is a rare statement for me to make. I hear a lot of music and this song just soared right to the top.
The song that seems to be taking the early lead for favorite is Little Bit Of Rust (Track 3). And with good reason. This song is another brilliant entry on this collection. And Hoge has none other than Sheryl Crow singing backup vocals on this track and she absolutely nails it. Hoge’s and Crow’s voices come together to make something beautiful. This song definitely has hit potential.
Hoge is not just a one trick pony. He can also belt out some pretty legit rhythm and blues as he does on Cold Night In Santa Fe (Track 4). Another song about breaking up and lost love. Hoge ventures into crooner territory and males the transition flawlessly. This song can be a hit now and it could have also made the charts back in 75.
This album is superb. Sometimes it is hard to discern between top notch production and mixing and just mediocre. If you have any doubts, listen to this album and put on almost anything else, and you will be able to hear how good the mixing and production work is. It’s the final piece of the puzzle. This is a buy recommendation, for sure.