CD Review: Will Hoge “The Wreckage”

HogeDare I say it, but the past couple of records from Will Hoge have been disappointments for me – yes, they had their moments – but overall I found the albums cumbersome. The songs were still ripe with passion, but lacked the charm and energy – and catchy melodies – that made his first few releases so mesmerizing. Hoge‘s latest, “The Wreckage” is a solid return to his earlier sound.

“The Wreckage” may have a double meaning. In 2008, Hoge was involved in a traffic accident that nearly robbed the world of this fine talent. As it states in his bio: “As Hoge rode his scooter home from the studio, he was struck by an oncoming van that had veered into his lane. There were no skid marks. Launched off his bike, Hoge ended up bloodied, broken-boned, temporarily blinded, and near death. [The accident] was like stopping a record as it spins,” says Hoge, who had been halfway through recording material for his new record before getting derailed…For ten months, the accident sidelined Hoge. For ten months, it made him do something he hadn’t done in 18 years: stop the music.”

But upon listening to “The Wreckage”, another meaning seems to emerge. The primary theme that courses through the record is human connectedness. Song after song, Hoge leads us through a very personal and bittersweet exploration of aging human relationships.

While many of the new songs recapture the essence of that made early Hoge records such a joy, “The Wreckage” is not without its missteps. It has a fair share of ballads and only one or two are engaging enough to want to hear more than once (e.g. “Where Do We Go From Down”, which finds Hoge searching “for light in a shadow of a doubt”). Hoge‘s strong suit are his rip-roaring melodic rockers – which he delivers on tracks like “Hard To Love” and “Favorite Waste of Time”. Other highlights include his usual life on the road song, “Highway Wings” (isn’t there one of these on every Hoge record?) and the inspirational single, “Even If It Breaks Your Heart”.

Musically and lyrically, I think the time away from music has recharged Hoge. Track for track, I think the “The Wreckage” is one of his strongest efforts and is second only to “Blackbird On A Lonely Wire” as my favorite Will Hoge album.

When it comes to roots rock, Will Hoge continues to impress with his contagious passion and good natured melodies. He is long overdue for the recognition he deserves and is proving worthy of inheriting the Tom Petty crown.

iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10

Will Hoge on MySpace. Official site.