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Album Spotlight: Will Hoge, ‘Never Give In’

Never Give In
Cumberland Records

Will Hoge approaches each of the 11 songs on his ‘Never Give In’ album with an urgency not common in mainstream country music. Something more than simple passion is driving him — it’s an unrelenting need to share his stories and experiences.

Hoge’s style comes across like he’d learned days before recording that he’d never be able to sing again when finished. Those who take chances on albums released by songwriters like Darrell Scott will recognize this urgency. It’s the difference between looking at a photograph before and after it has been adjusted in Photoshop. One can be beautiful, the other raw and honest.

‘Strong’ is the album’s signature song, only partly because it’s featured so heavily in Chevy truck commercials. Other moments, like ‘Home Is Where the Heart Breaks’ and ‘Bad Ol’ Days,’ paint an equally brilliant slice of life picture. The latter is one of the lighter moments on ‘Never Give In,’ Hoge’s eighth studio album.

Time moves faster every day / Looking back still brings a smile to my face / The women and whiskey, wicked ways / Sometimes I long for those bad ol’ days.”

While an uptempo rocker called ‘A Different Man’ opens this collection, most of the stories fall between dark and real. ‘This Time Around’ is a ballad that longs for a lover’s forgiveness. It’s followed by ‘Still Got You on My Mind,’ an uptempo rambler that still feels as heavy a winter fog. Much of the sadness is a byproduct of Hoge’s natural delivery. It’s difficult to imagine his folky baritone approaching more buoyant material.

While the album does suffer from some sonic similarities from track to track, a closer listen will reveal nearly a dozen songs with unique ideas and storylines. He’s a songwriter more than a polished country singer. Someone looking to take that first leap of faith could do worse than ‘Never Give In.’

Key Tracks: ‘This Time Around,’ ‘Home Is Where the Heart Breaks,’ ‘Bad Ol’ Days,’ ‘Strong’

Recognize Those Ladies?: Kristen Kelly and Ashley Monroe join Hoge on ‘Still Got You on My Mind.’ Their voices add a new layer to Hoge’s story.

Did You Know?: Hoge is the poster boy for do-it-yourself musicians. He’s built a reliable fanbase over the better part of decade. While his style leans rock and folk at times, he’s become a hot country songwriter. The Grammy/CMA/ACM-nominated ‘Even if It Breaks Your Heart’ (Eli Young Band) was one of his babies.

Next: What Are the Top Country Albums of 2013?

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