Nashville singer/songwriter Will Hoge has released a slew of albums that actively straddle the borderland between heartland rock and Americana. Given the fact that country music's mainstream has embraced the former wholeheartedly in the 21st century, it's no surprise his songs have been hits for the Eli Young Band and Lady Antebellum, to mention just two.Anchors arrives at an interesting time in Hoge's career. After the release of 2015's acclaimed Small Town Dreams, he faced a dilemma. Despite being able to make his living from songwriting and a successful touring regimen with his longtime band, he found that while he enjoyed playing live and writing, being in a band had outlived its purpose. He let the band go, went out on his own with a guitar and keyboard, and wrote while he traveled.
The 11-song Anchors was cut with crack session players, who help to fill out Hoge's portrait not only as songwriter but as a master storyteller. He doesn't seem concerned with where his songs fit musically, just as long as they're honest. They reflect on relationships caught in tension, in emergence, and spirals of slow dissolution; they offer reminiscences of wisdom hard won and chanced upon. They look at choices in the rear view and in the headlights. While the album's two pre-release singles -- the country rock of "Little Bit of Rust" (with Sheryl Crow) and "Baby's Eyes" -- that readily evokes Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers -- are excellent examples, they aren't the best ones here by far. The shuffling, love-haunted loneliness in "Cold Night in Santa Fe" and overamped rock anthem "(This Ain't) An Original Sin" are better examples of Hoge's literate, committed writing and passionate performance style. You believe every word because he does. The title track is a dreamy rock meditation on freedom and the real (blood) ties that bind. The poignant reflection on regret and possibility in "Angel's Wings" is delivered as a straight country song (complete with an awesome pedal steel whine courtesy of Fats Kaplan), but in the grain of his voice lies a rocker's heart. Closer "Young as We Will Ever Be" is an uptempo celebration of committed love as it shifts and changes over time without surrender; a screaming guitar break and clattering cymbals and snares underscore its truth. Hoge's protagonist is still hungry for his beloved and for life itself.
Anchors is not only consistent, it's completely solid in flow, dynamics, and feel. It seems that by listening to his gut, Hoge put himself in the best possible place to receive these fine songs. Lucky for us.
|The Reckoning / Will Hoge||Will Hoge||3:43|
|This Grand Charade / Will Hoge||Will Hoge||3:43|
|Little Bit of Rust / Will Hoge / James LeBlanc||Will Hoge||3:47|
|Cold Night in Santa Fe / Will Hoge||Will Hoge||3:22|
|Baby's Eyes / Brendan Benson / Will Hoge||Will Hoge||2:29|
|(This Ain't) An Original Sin / Will Hoge||Will Hoge||3:19|
|Through Missing You / Brendan Benson / Will Hoge / Jon Randall||Will Hoge||3:16|
|Anchors / Will Hoge||Will Hoge||3:55|
|Angels Wings / Will Hoge / Adam Hood||Will Hoge||4:00|
|17 / Will Hoge||Will Hoge||4:04|
|Young as We Will Ever Be / Dylan Altman / Will Hoge||Will Hoge||3:07|