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Hoge’s Latest, Tiny Little Movies Offers a Few Plot Twists to Go Along with the Tried and True
By Travis Erwin
Will Hoge has long been the kind of songwriter that reveals big, bold, and immersive emotions, with lyrics that pour forth from out of way places, seemingly inconsequential lives, and a dialed in small story approach. Hoge’s new album, Tiny Little Movies is perhaps the perfect way to sum up his body of work, because few songwriters can render such powerful engagement from the microscope of everyday life.
Hoge has always managed to convey a truth and honesty which often manages to feel both bleak in its stark reality, and hopeful in the satisfaction of a hard day’s work kind of way. No matter how sore or tired you may be when the sun goes down, that satisfaction of knowing you have done something, and done it right is a kind of pride that is hard to match. That is the kind of pride Hoge instills with his songwriting even though he’s done the heavy lifting and all we’ve done is listen and go along for the ride.
All of that said, Tiny Little Movies left me feeling mostly different than my previous encounters with Hoge’s work. I say mostly different because a few of the tracks certainly delivered the expected emotional punch including the opening track, “Midway Motel.” The harmonica and Hoge’s trademark grit and gravel both in voice and songwriting tone get the album going. Knowing Hoge’s tendency to take a stand, I found myself wondering if the motel in question was a metaphor for those trying desperately to hold middle ground in these tumultuous times.
The second track on the album leaves no question to what Hoge is thinking. Though sonically it does hold some surprises. “The Overthrow” is pure rock and Hoge’s vocals came with hints of Ozzy and Black Sabbath. Lines like … slow dancing with a straw man, and Darth Vader with a spray tan draw a clear line in the sand.
“Maybe This Is Okay” comes with a slower, more soulful start before ramping up for the chorus. The track has a live music feel and is the kind of track you feel more than you hear. “Even The River Runs Out Of This Town” is the kind of down and dirty emotion that I have came to expect from Hoge and true to form, the simple yet poignant writing conjures forth complex thoughts and feelings, giving us yet another track bringing forth the beauty and power of Hoge’s songwriting and emotive vocal style.
At nearly six minutes, “My Worst” takes you for a long ride that includes a heavy heart full of regret, and a soaring, almost gospel like backing that lends the track a two-songs-in-one kind of vibe. There is a nice jam to the middle of the track and overall, this cathartic tone about letting go is a soul cleanser if you let it wash over you a few times.
“That’s How You Lose Her” feels a bit more commercial than most of the other tracks on the album. Lyrically it has a late 80’s early 90s country kind of feel about it, though Hoge’s gritty vocal delivery keeps it closer to Steve Earle’s “Guitar Town,” so in the end it doesn’t not feel like the biggest departure on the album. That honor goes to the next track.
Riding an almost punk sensibility, “Con Man Blues” is a hard-charged track that lets the music do the talking as much as the lyrics, and I honestly would never have guessed was Hoge was on the other side of the microphone had I heard this track out in the wild. That is not to say it is a bad track, only that it is almost unrecognizable as Will Hoge.
The eighth track on the album returns us to a more expected sound. “Is This All You Wanted Me For” is a punch in the gut track for those left in the wake of a user and a taker. An anthem for anyone who has been hurt by those who enter our lives take more than they ever give back. “The Likes Of You” is a melodic ballad that relies on a repetitious build to convey the progression of love and how it changes us in steps. Steps that we often don’t see or feel coming.
“The Curse" proved to be my least favorite track of the eleven making up the album. I struggled to stay with this rhythm and vocal cadence even though it all felt familiar, not in a nostalgic way, but in an … I’ve traveled down this road before manner that just did not keep me dialed in.
The album closed with easily my favorite track. “All The Pretty Horses” delivered that yearning emotion tinged with both hope and despair that is prevalent in so much of Hoge’s work. This tangible takeaway from much of his music is what I’ve always loved best about his songs, and here on the final track, you can feel it layered within the cleverly crafted lyrics.
Tiny Little Movies is another accolade for Hoge. The diversity in sound and subject matter makes it stand out and showcases the depth of his songwriting talent as well as versatility on stage or in the booth.
Like all great songwriters, this is not an album you can digest fully in a single sitting. The nuances and flavors are brought out with each listen, and that makes it certain this album will be added to my best of 2020 list because I know for certain I will be listening to it time and time again.
Tiny Little Movies is available tomorrow.
The author of numerous works such as WAITING ON THE RIVER, TWISTED ROADS, and HEMINGWAY, Travis Erwin is best known for his comedic memoir THE FEEDSTORE CHRONICLES. Find links to all of his work, including other music reviews via his Twitter @traviserwin.