An Americana/indie darling for over a decade, and one of the rare artists that can count Bruce Springsteen among his fans, Will Hoge is poised to capitalize on ten years of buzzworthy performances and record releases with his new album, The Wreckage. An apt title to be sure, as the album dropped almost a year to the day Hoge was injured in a near fatal motorcycle accident.
While initial production work and tracking had begun on what would become The Wreckage, it wasn’t until eight months after the accident and upon Hoge’s full recovery that the recording process began in earnest. Having survived a fate eerily similar to the one that claimed southern rock legend Duane Allman, Hoge entered the studio with a renewed purpose and spirit. That desire seeps on every track and melody as Hoge delivers the best album of his career. Tight melodies and exhuberant vocals intermingle with bombastic drums and loud guitars in all the right places.
It is rare, especially in today’s singles driven marketplace, to encounter a record with no filler or skip-worthy material, but The Wreckage has none to be found. Each song stands on it’s own merit and strength. Hoge jaunts from the amped up honky-tonk shuffle of “Long Gone” to the acoustic Matt Powell flavored title track and on to the heartland rock stomp of “Favorite Waste of Time”. Yet, there are a couple of absolute gems that standout among a cast of all-star songs. The first of these being the opening track, “Hard To Love” as Hoge croons over a Springsteen-esque chorus of pianos and guitars about being “hard to love…easy to hold”. “Highway Wings” sounds as if it was left on a dusty shelf after a Traveling Wilbury’s or Tom Petty session from the 80’s. The lead single from the album, “Even If It Breaks Your Heart”, is Hoge’s love letter to rock n’ roll…both the music and the lifestyle. Did he choose this path or did it choose him? One of the hookiest choruses to arrive in 2009 combined with a lyrical peek behind the curtain of an acclaimed artist at their most vulnerable and creative.
Whoa oh, I can hear ’em playing
I can hear the ringing of a beat up old guitar
Whoa oh, I can hear ’em saying
Keep on dreamin’ even if breaks your heart
Several songs find Hoge mining the well-traveled lyrical territory of love and heartbreak. “Where Do We Go From Down” sounds like something Prince would produce if he decided to make a country record. Layered guitars with minor chords, tempo changes, multiple harmonies and heartworn lyrics that sound familiar upon first listen.
“Goodnight, Goodbye” is a melancholy take on the same areas of a breakup covered by Randy Rogers Band’s “One More Goodbye”.
We say goodnight
because we just cant’ say goodbye
Quite frankly, The Wreckage is the finest record Will Hoge has ever produced, and is the finest record I’ve heard this year. It’s the type of fantastic record full of quality songwriting and amazing musicianship that seems to be a lost art not seen since the heyday of the 80’s icons (Sprinsteen, Wilburys and Petty) listed above. Listeners will find an intriguing mix of sounds and styles that include good times and heartbreak, doses of rock n’ roll bravado and country humility. Hoge is one Nashville product who knows how to deliver from the heart, this is a must-have album.