Will Hoge
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Will Hoge

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Nov
19
Will Hoge @ Bijou Theatre

Knoxville, Tennessee, USA

Knoxville, Tennessee, USA

Nov
07
Will Hoge @ The Orange Peel

Asheville, North Carolina, USA

Asheville, North Carolina, USA

Nov
06
Will Hoge @ The Loft

Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Atlanta, Georgia, USA

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Music

The best kept secret in music

Press


Album of the Year: Will Hoge's Draw The Curtains Review

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Truly illustrious albums change your life in ways that are indefinable. They show you the world from a diverse point of view and are cathartic and soothing pieces of art that become vital to your life. Bruce Springsteen's 'Tunnel of Love', Bob Dylan's 'Blood On The Tracks' and Peter Gabriel's 'Us' are among the bloodiest, truthful and devastating collections of songs ever created. There's something intensely remarkable about the emotions that come into play when a relationship comes to an end. We're overcome with this feeling of desperation and feel completely and utterly lost. We try to find the light through escapism but even then it doesn't always work and we struggle to find our way home. But when you drop the needle on 'Blood on The Tracks' and hear "Tangled Up In Blue" a sense of reprieve comes over you because all of a sudden there's someone else out there who feels precisely the way you do. When you find albums like these, they become more than just pieces of plastic or digital files but guides that help us save our lives. Will Hoge's 'Draw The Curtains' is one of these rare albums.

'Draw The Curtains' is a collection of ten stunningly crafted songs that are as multifaceted as the relationships he sings about. This album stirs your soul and yields a genuine truth so rarely found in today's music with each song essential to the underlying theme. Instead of writing one or two melodic songs to get on the radio, Hoge has gone down the road less traveled and has shaped an emotionally severe and intuitive masterpiece that is not just timeless but most likely the best album of 2007. This is an album deeply embedded in reactionary tales that permeate into you more and more with every listen. We all need a catalyst to hold onto so we can crawl outside of our skin and look inward and for many, including myself, I look to music to transform me and 'Draw The Curtains' is my new best friend.

Hoge continually embodies the rock and soul godfathers who have come before him but he remains distinctively original as he embodies the best of his influences. His music is an homage of those who have come before him by pledging allegiance to these rock and soul godfathers, notably the Allman Brothers Band for their musical prowess and Otis Redding whom Hoge channels his vocal intensity. These elements are combined with tumultuous, succinct and prosaic lyrics that find their way into gorgeous harmonizing melodies. Will Hoge distills decades' worth of canonical influences in his music and while I often compare him to others, I must make it abundantly clear that he is an artist with his own vision. He has taken courses in the fundamentals of rock n' roll and knows what it takes to inspire and transform.

Hoge's iridescent vocal twang rings true and when you listen to his voice he evokes indescribable feelings, most notably on the album's opening number, "When I Can Afford To Lose". It's a peculiar choice to open the album with a ballad, but by doing so, Hoge has laid out all of his emotions on the line. The lyrics are something out of a Cameron Crowe film, the narrator aches with vulnerability and his vocal is poised with agony but there is also haunting desperation. I'm not sure if I have ever such bare poetic agony before. Ballads rarely open albums and succeed ("Round Here" by the Counting Crows comes to mind as one of the transcendent ones) but on "When I Can Afford To Lose" Hoge lets us into his world of pain with scars so deep, you wonder if he'll ever recover. As I listen to the song, it's almost uncomfortable to hear it. It's not as flashy as a roadhouse rocker but it sets the mood for the album. He sings fluently about more than a broken heart but a broken man. Complimenting the sublime vocals and lyrics is a bare production style, yet it has the best overall texture of any of his records to date. His last album, 'The Man Who Killed Love' was the benchmark for production, but he surpasses himself on 'Draw The Curtains'.

"These Were The Days" finds Hoge being nostalgic but with a clear eye on living in the future on the album's strongest potential for a hit single while "Silver Or Gold" is a minimalist bluesy ballad featuring a killer B-3 Hammond Organ. The bar room boogie backbeat of "Sex, Lies and Money", similar to the jolting "July Moon", soars with its hot-blooded and unrepentant drive. In the heart-on-his-sleeve ballad, "I'm Sorry Now", Will provides a declaration forgiveness which features a lingering and recurring violin in the background of the mix. The upbeat "Midnight Parade" is a buoyant number that evokes John Mellencamp at his best with a dash of slide guitar.

"Dirty Little War" shows a young artist far more mature than anyone would guess. The acoustic number with a sparse yet effective accordion and slide guitar is gut-wrenching but it crawls under your skin like a song from Dylan's 'Blood On The Tracks'. Hoge has the amazingly ability to put himself in the shoes of someone else yet simultaneously make it feel profoundly personal. It's a divorce tale performed with an endearing melody, a rare feat to juggle a subject matter this serious and have it sound so tuneful.

The title track, "Draw The Curtains", gives the affecting and evocative feeling I had when I first heard Dylan's "Not Dark Yet". A subdued yet highly affective horn is placed subtlety in the background that creeps up on the listener like a lover's gentle breath on the back of your neck. When I hear the lyric, "I fall into your arms like rain", I sit back and just smile at the striking poetics. The song is heartrending without being too maudlin. It paints the perfect picture of faith and hope which is possibly why it became the title of the album. There have been times when we find ourselves drifting throughout life, after being beaten down by it, wanting a second chance, a rebirth and a new day. We're not sure if the characters in the song make it to the promised land, but we do know they have a keen eye on the hopefulness of a second chance and that is really all that matters.

"Washed By The Water" may be the preeminent song Hoge has ever committed to tape. Written in the aftermath of Katrina, Hoge brings soul and optimism to a tragic situation. Within weeks of the tragedy, a live version of the song appeared on his web page and when it didn't make 'The Man Who Killed Love', I was afraid this was one of those songs that would never find its way to a studio album. The Hammond B-3 organ on this song is amalgamated with uplifting production. The sum of the band and their instruments create a sweeping and defiant sensation that almost makes you feel like you were right in the studio when they cut this. If this doesn't send shivers down your spine, then nothing in life will.

"The Highway's Home" is a song Hoge has been performing for a few years and having it amalgamated with "Washed By The Water" at the end of the album is ethereal and poignant. When he sings "I'm moving on" it's the definitive moment on the album. He has a revelation that he holds the keys to his own cage. We all overwrought with grief and heartache but how do we inject ourselves with faith again? That answer lies within us and for Will it's hitting the road, his true home where he creates music full of heartache and open-road romanticism. Hoge's lyrics address ghosts of the past and somehow, somewhere he's looking for a spiritual awakening by coming to terms with these relationships and by the album's closing track, "The Highway's Home", he's found it.

Will Hoge sings these songs like a lost bluesman. The rockers are full of roadhouse exuberance that are so smoky sweet I felt like I was in a bar where the liquor flows like a river and the smoke wraps itself around you like a cloud. In the last two-years, Hoge has masterfully crafted two perfect albums constructed of ten songs each filled with heartache, hope and romantic giganticism. We all know someone who yearns for the good old days and have lost faith in modern times and technology. Back in 1994 when I would meet a cynic who would tell me "they just don't make movies the way they used to", I'd told them to go and see 'The Shawshank Redemption' so they could recapture not just their own personal faith but in the film medium as well. The next time someone tells me "they don't make albums like they used to", I'm going to tell them to buy Will Hoge's "Draw The Curtains" so they can have that same spiritual awakening.

Anthony Kuzminski is a Chicago based writer and can be found at The Screen Door - The Screen Door


The latest Will Hoge album continues the trend of Hoge’s work becoming heavier with blues and soul influences. Otis Redding is one of Hoge’s heroes of sorts and has obviously shaped his work a great deal. As he continues to get older and as he continues to get more freedom with his music his stuff continues to lean to that side of things. In his latest effort “Draw the Curtains”, his blues/soul influences are at the forefront (Cocker, Redding), but there’s an element of southern-pop, almost country on this disc that’s best compared to Bob Segar and that really stands out. The style works well for Hoge and he can pull it off a million times better than the two other relevant (or irrelevant) figures in music that do this kind of music- Taylor Hicks and Bo Bice. Hoge is a legitimate artist who performs 300 times a year with raw talent. Key tracks on this one that goes into the pile of Hoge classics include “Washed By The Water”, “When I Can Afford to Lose”, and “Dirty Little War.” The blues/soul stuff is great and is a strength for Hoge, but there’s nothing on this disc that rocks like Hoge used to do and that’s really the only flaw. I miss some of the Hoge songs like “Ms. Williams”, “She Don’t Care” and “Be The One.” The direction he’s going in is awesome and he continues to get better as a vocalist and as a songwriter, and continues to be one of the music’s best kept secrets, but it’s a bit of a shame that Hoge won’t let loose anymore. It’s good to be good at raw soulful blues music, it’s really bad to make an Elliot Smith like album where everything is a big downer. Only Elliot Smith can do that. “Draw the Curtains” is another strong set from Hoge, you’d just like to see more variety with some faster paced songs. - Alternative Addiction


“We’re always on tour,” says Will Hoge, the phone reception crackling as his bus hurtles through the Appalachian Mountains. “Being from Nashville, it’s so easy to get to and from places, so the touring never really stops.” Hoge and his road-tested bandmates are currently heading to the college town of Harrisonburg, VA, where they plan to play “a loose and dangerous rock & roll show” in support of Hoge’s new record, Draw the Curtains. The album marks his first effort for the Rykodisc label, as well as his first non-independent release since leaving Atlantic Records’ roster several years back. It’s a soulful disc — sometimes raucous, sometimes refined — and Hoge hopes his new label will help spread the group’s Southern-fried gospel.

“When we left Atlantic,” he explains, “we decided that we weren’t going to worry about record labels. There’s so much more to worry about — how to write great songs, make great records, play great shows.” Hoge issued three releases as an independent artist and took up permanent residence on the road, a move that generated interest from other labels. Ryko eventually won out, having impressed Hoge and co. with “small, very logistical steps for turning people on to this record.” Hoge is a realistic songwriter — someone who realizes the value of a single well-played show or a single converted fan — and his steady approach gelled with Ryko’s attitude. “We’re not trying to make a bunch of money in the next six months and then be done with it,” he says. “We can be patient and let a big series of little things happen.”

Will HogeDraw the Curtains is very much a product of the South. It alternately croons and stomps, mixing piano ballads with blue-collar, guitar-fueled rockers that spin tales of heartache. For an artist who’s spent the better part of a decade on the road, an album like Draw the Curtains (which was largely completed before Hoge inked a deal with Ryko) is the embodiment of what it means to be an independent artist. It’s raw, personal, and artistically valid, starting with the slow-roasted soul of “When I Can Afford to Lose” and not delivering its most radio-worthy tracks until much later. Hoge structured that tracklisting purposefully, and while most labels would prefer to pack an album’s potential hits into the first fifteen minutes, Ryko is letting their most recent acquisition do things his own way.

The following week, Hoge brings his entourage to the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor, where the band cuts through the bar’s smoky air with traditional Southern-styled rock. “This is the most fun we’ve had in Michigan!” he exclaims before the band finishes. “I’m not saying it’s the most fun we will have in Michigan, but it’s the most fun we’ve had yet.” And then he exits the stage, another show finished, another audience converted, another step in Will Hoge’s big series of little things. - Allmusic.com


6. Draw the Curtains by Will Hoge
Long time Twangville favorite Hoge is one of rock’s hardest-working artists, maintaining a nearly non-stop touring schedule. Not surprisingly, the time spent on the road has finally seeped into his music. In the spirit and style of Jackson Browne’s “Running on Empty,” Hoge serves up a collection of restrained songs filled with a road weariness that veers between anxiety and forlorn. Among the stand-outs are Hoge’s moving reflection on the Hurricane Katrina disaster, a song that conveys defiance and hope with the chorus, “Down here we’re washed by the water, the water can’t wash us away.” Album closer “The Highway’s Home” sums it up best. With a quiet pedal steel guitar guiding the way, Hoge declares “With a suitcase full of empty dreams. A guitar with broken strings. A busted heart that longs to sing the blues. A mind that always leads me wrong, a head full of Hank Williams songs. I’m sorry, honey, but this highway’s home.” - Twangville


I got a suitcase full of empty dreams
A guitar with broken strings
A busted heart that longs to sing the blues
-“Highway’s Home”

Great shows begin and end with a bang. They capture the hearts and minds of the audience and never let go even after the music has faded into the night. During the encore of Will Hoge’s recent appearance at the Park West in Chicago, he played one lone number, “She Don’t Care About Me”. On paper this may appear to be an ordinary ending to an extraordinary evening. Sure, the encore was one song; however, it was a ten-minutes plus jam in which Will Hoge and his band took this simple rock number to mythic and grand proportions. In this extended jam, the band took a straightforward song and augmented it for a truly illustrious moment as “Midnight Rider” was incorporated throughout “She Don’t Care…” and even though the track lasted over ten-minutes, each and every member of the audience was spellbound by the remarkable performance and no one dared to head for the door. With the effortless wave of a hand, Will brought it all back home for a forceful finale while the audience watched closely just as children would watch a magician wave his wand waiting for their next trick. There was no fooling anyone in Chicago, what occurred was magical as the band impressed everyone. Bruce Springsteen once sang, “Show a little faith, there’s magic in the night…” and if your city is lucky enough to have Will Hoge pass thru, there will be more than magic, but power, perseverance and preservation of the thing I call rock n’ roll.

I had just completed an article on Will Hoge the week he came to Chicago for a headline gig at the Park West. I had two tickets reserved for me at will call, but I’ll admit, I was a bit nervous. I had seen Will open for Marc Broussard eight months earlier and the performance was riveting. However, how would he handle a headline slot? At 9:30pm on the head, Will and his band took the stage and plowed through “Secondhand Heart”, “Let Me Be Lonely” and “Doesn’t Have To Be This Way” in succession. The musicianship during these first three numbers was nothing short of spine-tingling and luminous. Each band member feeds off the other and the song arrangements have hurdled leaps and bounds since they were first recorded. Will Hoge may be a solo act taking his show on the road but the tightness and musicianship of this opening trio of tunes showcased that for Will Hoge, rock n’ roll is a band thing. Throughout the course of the evening, Will’s persistence and spirit rose above as the crowd, as they watched him surprise them song after song. New and old songs alike won the crowd over as the band tore through a set full of energy, emotion and soul. Will and the band rode through their set with confidence and determination usually the best headliners only have. Here is an act that one night is opening for ZZ Top and the next will be playing a festival and then headlining a club the next. They move from gig to gig like midnight riders delivering their brand of rock n’ roll with willpower and a vengeance no matter what the size of the venue or audience is.

As the evening progressed, Will lacerated the strings on his guitar as he whisked up the opening chords of “Better Off Now”. The break up rocker struck a chord with me as it was written from the heart and I could put myself into a time and place in my life where I felt just like the lyrics (“Ghosts of you would come back to me whenever I was alone”). “Ms. Williams” followed in a shotgun like fashion as the driving bass beat kicked in while voices from the crowd sung in unison. Illustrious artists should do more than just entertain, but they should inspire and strike chords within your heart. Early in his set Will grabbed mine, just like he had eight months earlier.

Being a road warrior, Will is not afraid to try out new material on a crowd. Tonight was no exception, he ran through a number of tunes which will be on his forthcoming album coming out in early 2006. “I Wanna Be Strong” was first up and the soul wrenching anthem is one Otis Redding would have loved. As I watched Will perform the song, his intensity could be seen as he did not open his eyes and yet you could feel the yearning and despair in his voice while at the same time feeling like it was your own experience he was singing about. “Highways Home” (dedicated to Hank Williams), “Pocket Full of Change” and “Hearts Are Gonna Roll” further demonstrated the band is no fluke and that their new material is potent and can potentially be truly tremendous in concert once fans become more familiar with it. The material ranged from rocking to soulful and if these songs are any indication, Will’s next album may be one of 2006’s best. Let me pause for a second and talk about the voice. Will has one of the most soulful and intense voices I’ve heard in years. It’s not so much the strength of the voice, but the resolve with which he uses it. It is an instrument and he uses it brilliantly on his soulful serenades.

The stage and club had no glitz, no glamour- just the pure essence of rock ‘n roll. No fancy posters or backing banners hung on stage, there was just a band who believes in their music and getting it out to as many people as possible. During the encore, Will was speaking to the crowd as he tuned his guitar and joked about how one day, maybe they’ll be big enough to pay someone to do it for them. I for one pray they hit the big time sooner than later because I can’t think of a single performer I’ve seen in the last few years that deserve it more. When seeing Will live it’s more than just a concert but a life transforming event. You always hear about seeing classic artists like U2, REM, Pearl Jam and Nirvana in small clubs like the Park West before they made it big. People speak of it in legendary terms that are almost mythic. I feel the same way about Will Hoge, each and every lyric sung, bass thumbed, cymbal crashed and guitar strummed I feel time slipping away from me to a time where Will Hoge will no longer be just “my” cult artist. He’s a determined and compelling live performer who has the material to back him up and I believe it’s just a matter of time before he’s no longer just my little secret. He’s not a pop star or even a rock star; he’s simply Will Hoge, a first rate musician who believes deeply in his mission of making music will bring about a relationship with his audience.

There is something about the connection between the listener and the artist, it’s an ongoing relationship. One wonders why I hate and despise one-hit wonders on the radio today and my answer is what would you rather have; a cheap fun one night stand or a ongoing nurturing relationship that will nourish you and help you continue to grow and evolve as a person? I'll take the later. Will is an artist with a mission, the type of artist who makes you feel connected to where you have been, where you are now and where you are going.

Will is an artist of conscience who makes a bond with his audience. Sure, he’s a rock n’ roller who leaves a pint of blood on the concert stage every night, but beneath the blood, sweat and tears is an artist of considerable significance. He’s no fly by night artist who will be here one moment and gone tomorrow. At the end of the day, it is the power of his prose that distinguishes him from others, as he is reaching deeper from within to tell stories. These are more than boy meets girl stories, but ones with a social impact. Look no further and “Washed By The Water”, a profoundly powerful anthem for those in need and those who need shelter from the storm. The song was written in the aftermath of Katrina’s devastating effects this past summer and Will posted a live MP3 of the song to his website shortly thereafter. This song for Will is the equivalent of “Blowin’ In The Wind” to Dylan, “Sunday Bloody Sunday” to U2, “Badlands” by Bruce Springsteen…these were all important songs, to the respective artists, where they made a decision to take their audience on a journey that involved alternate routes and crossroads. I am glad I caught the train early and can’t wait for further life lessons with Will Hoge. Desperate times call for great artists to heal…Will Hoge is one of these artists who touches our hearts, engages our minds and replenishes our souls. Now that’s magic. - Unrated Magazine


Honest, sincere, and belly groaning soulful. The fourth studio release from the Tennessee born Will Hoge is not only a testament to the stability of rock n’ roll but probably the most consistent recording I have heard in the past year. Because of the brute immaturity of label backing, the majority of the nation’s recording artists are trying to pack everything they possibly can into their music in a fear of never releasing a follow up album. But for Will Hoge’s “Draw the Curtains,” released in October of 2007, what transpired was an album of focused contentment.

His vocals bleed as guitars, harmonicas, and pianos provide the textural makeup of a dynamically easy flowing record. If I reviewed this record after a few listens, I probably would have brushed it off as just another artists who hired a big time publicity house to handle his press and that is why the buzz is churning. But after a week of my musically bombarded ears coming back to it I really fell for it; I believe Will Hoge. The line that got me was from “Silver or Gold.” He sings Love is like money / When you need it the most it is all gone.

Featured tracks are: All of them. Do yourself a favor. Buy this record. - Downtown Money Waster


Discography

Draw The Curtains - LP - 2007 (Rykodisc)

Blackbird On A Lonely Wire - LP - 2003 (Atlantic)

Carousel - LP - 2001 (Atlantic)

Photos

Bio

Decades ago, before the first rock and roll idols turned music into a product, musicians played music the way cobblers mended shoes and carpenters built homes. It was a trade like any other job and men did it for work, for wage. Young men would pack their station wagons with gear and travel from city to city to play their songs. For these musicians, it was not only all they wanted to do but all they could do. They were not in search of fame or fortune. It was simply a life in music.

Welcome to the world of Will Hoge.

"I bust my ass every night, sometimes for $45 a pop," he says. "I load my own gear, mortgaged my house to pay the band. But if you want it, you have to be willing to bleed."

Hoge's sacrifices are second nature to him. He is what some refer to in the business today as a "career" artist, a dedicated, straight-talking guy more interested in longevity than a hit single, in building a fan base than winning a Grammy. Five years from now, you will not find him making sandwiches at Quiznos or copies at Kinko's. He will be playing music. "In my mind I don't have a choice. I want a career in music, and to me, a ‘career' is not five years, but 35."

In life, and on his brilliant new album, Draw the Curtains, Hoge follows in the footsteps of musical archetypes like Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle, Hank Williams, Van Morrison, Patty Griffin, Neil Young and Bob Dylan. These artists inspire him not just for their work, but for their approach to their art. They exist outside the traditional economic constraints of "success" and "failure," and do their own thing on their own time. "They would all be playing music whether there was money in it or not," says Hoge. "All of them would be homeless rather than do something else. In my mind, you're either a musician or you're not."

In a way, Hoge himself is homeless. That is, if you don't think of a tour bus as home. That's where he spends most of his time, 200 nights a year, zig-zagging the country, doing what the good Lord put him on this earth to do. He headlines most of those dates, but has also played supporting slots for the Black Crowes, My Morning Jacket and the Drive-By Truckers, among many others, as well as dates at Bonnaroo and the Austin City Limits festival.

"I'm embarrassingly in love with rock and roll," he admits. "It's disgusting. We ride around and play rock and roll. On the bus after shows we listen to records and turn each other on to new music. When we get home we spend a little time with loved ones, but within about 72 hours of being home we're back together listening to records again, or looking for guitars, or something. I can't lie about it, it's all-consuming."

So is listening to Hoge. Draw the Curtains, his first album in nearly two years and his fourth collection overall, is a tour de force of authenticity, covering sounds from country and roots to rock, soul and R&B. It's music the way it was meant to be played, with a rock-is-my-life, let's-hit-the-road attitude. "The thing we were able to do this time was not worry about the bullshit ‘what-sounds-good-on-the-radio' thing," says Hoge, who has recorded in the past for a major label. "You can't chase a record. You get to the core, make it as good as you can make it and suffer the result." Hoge appreciates the simplicity of the approach. "If it moves you, then it's done. If it's perfect-but you're still not moved-then you've still got work to do."

"Washed By the Water" and "Silver Or Gold," for example, gush with the passion and spirituality of Otis Redding-fired rock and roll. "Midnight Parade" resonates with the color and verve of early '70s Springsteen. The rockin' "Sex, Lies and Money" hints at the wryness of Warren Zevon. "Dirty Little War" emits the edgy frustration of Steve Earle. Throughout the album, the songs are roughly cut, with Hoge leaving the edges jagged. The basic tracking wrapped in 10 days, with post-production running just a few days after that.

"There are imperfections on the record for certain. From a pop radio perspective there are things that would never fly. But ‘the chill factor' kept us honest. Those chills became another member of the band in the studio. If they were there with us, we knew we were doing something right."

Hoge's music is the unwavering sound of a born rocker. Hoge filters rock, soul, folk, blues and country through a prism of emotional authenticity. What emerges isn't a reinvention of the wheel, rather something undeniable, and the very definition of a force of nature. It is the music a man makes as he approaches the peak of his craft.

"Otis Redding is my favorite singer of all time. But he doesn't sing about things no one else has sung. At first, the Beatles didn't sing about anything original; they were just ripping off Little Richard. Muddy Waters borrowed from Robert Johnson. In the same way, ‘I love you' is the most bullshit phrase in our culture unless you really mean it."

"And for it to mean something is all