First Appeared at The Music Box, May 2001, Volume 8, #5
Written by T.J. Simon
Every once in a while, a performer's self-financed CD surfaces, making the listener wonder where the major-label talent scouts have been. Will Hoge's debut effort Carousel is just such a release. And although he doesn't have the corporate money of a record company behind him, this is probably not for lack of offers for he has the feel and sound of a man grooming himself for great things to come.
Hoge is based in Nashville, but his music is twang-free, old-fashioned, guitar-based rock 'n' roll. Already he has been compared to Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, and Elvis Costello, but fairer comparisons might be made to Counting Crows, The Wallflowers, or Hootie and the Blowfish. Critics have already started to take notice of this twenty-something budding rock star, and some are predicting that he is the next big thing. In addition, Hoge also has received a ringing endorsement from former Georgia Satellites frontman Dan Baird, who signed on as Hoge's lead guitarist for the recording of Carousel as well as several early tour dates.
The combination of Hoge's soulful vocals and Baird's strong guitar work have yielded an upbeat, up-tempo album full of extremely infectious, accessible melodies. The most appealing number on Carousel is the opening track She Don't Care. This Springsteen-esque song — about a man lusting for a woman who is out of his league — has real hit potential and is guaranteed to roam your brainwaves for hours after hearing it.
While it's true that some say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but at times, Hoge unapologetically takes this to an extreme. On Ms. Williams, he sounds an awful lot like the Counting Crows' Adam Duritz, and one could simply sing the lyrics to the Crows' hit Mr. Jones over Ms. Williams and achieve familiar results. In addition, on the selections Let Me Be Lonely and Your Fool, Hoge is deep in Elvis Costello territory. No one should complain since these — like the other tunes on this ten-track album — are all good power pop songs. But each also lends nothing to the genre.
While Hoge is no trailblazer in the rock scene, the appeal of his earnest music actually increases with time. He has built a reputation for fantastic live shows, with particular emphasis and success in the Southeastern U.S. In short, he is a respectable young musician, and Carousel is a fine album. As his career progresses, Hoge will surely develop his own sound, but until then, the stylistic odes to his influences work just fine. There's little doubt that it will be a pleasure watching Hoge emerge as a major rock force over the next few years as he finds his own style and is discovered and accepted by the industry.
Carousel is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2001 The Music Box