There are a lot of great artists out there that make worthwhile, substantial music that falls just barely inside the realm of country music. Will Hoge is one of those artists. He is unapologetically more of a rock artist than country, but he is the definition of walking the line that straddles to two genres. When mainstream guys talk about “blending the genres” and “outside influence” THIS is what they should sound like. With the release of his new album, Will is experiencing the most exposure he ever has as an artist. From a number one co-write to a Chevy truck ad campaign, Will has witnessed his stock rise over the past few years. Thankfully, the music that resulted was not a step back. Quite the opposite, as Will Hoge is making the best music of his career with Small Town Dreams.
Small Town Dreams plays out like a Mellencamp or Springsteen record with a touch of Tennessee influences. If you told someone “listen for the country influence”, they’d hear it. If you told them to look for the rock influence, they’d hear. Blues, Motown, gospel… they all play a part into the sound. It is best described as American music. The lead single, “Middle of America”, is a fun jam song that tells enough of a story to be intriguing, but is vague enough to apply to everyone. It is making a little noise on radio, and rightfully so. It’s a darn good song that is perfectly suited for mainstream radio. “Growing Up Around Here” is another song that is perfectly suited for country radio. It is a similar theme to "Middle of America" (the whole album seems to connect to small town living). I think “Middle of America” is the superior song, but both are good in their own right. “They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To” is probably the best written song on the album. This ode to hard-working husbands and fathers will bring a tear to any guy’s eye. Will’s ability to turn a personal story into a universal theme is where his country music songwriting ability shines through the best. “Guitar or a Gun”, a co-write with Gary Allan, is a great story song with a hint of anger and an ending that you need to create on your own. “Just Up the Road” is a very well done love song that has sentiment without being cheesy.
Not only does Will Hoge embody small town life, he champions the everyman. Many of the songs on Small Town Dreams connect to everyday people living everyday lives. Apart from the ones already mentioned, “Desperate Times” is a perfect anthem for the middle class, as its puts a light hearted spin on barely getting by. “Little Bitty Dreams” tells the all too familiar story of people who dream of getting out of their little town, falling in love, and happily settling down in that very town. “Til I Do It Again” is a country-tinged rocker about Saturday night that every good ol’ boy can relate to.
Small Town Dreams is exactly the kind of album that Will Hoge needed to put out. As his name continues to rise, his musical output does as well. As I said before, this album isn’t about country music or rock music or who sounds like what, it is about the American story. Small towns, hard workers, and tight-knit communities. Will Hoge has spun together a great collection of tales from the middle of America. Small Town Dreams is one of the better albums to be released in 2015.
Standout Tracks: “They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To”, “Middle Of America”, “Desperate Times”, “Little Bitty Dreams”, “Til I Do It Again”, “Guitar or A Gun”
"Middle Of America"
"They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To"
"Til I Do It Again"
"Guitar Or A Gun"