An independent artist whose last major label release was in 2003, it’s possible Americana singer/songwriter Will Hoge is one of those great musicians you haven’t heard of but have undoubtedly heard. Will’s current single “Strong” serves prominently as the theme song for the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado (it’s the one you love in the Chevy truck ads) while his resume includes Grammy, CMA and ACM nominations for co-writing Eli Young Band’s No. 1 hit “Even If It Breaks Your Heart.” Now releasing his sixth studio album, Will continues to deliver his heartland perspective with gritty guitar and an insightful eye.
Never Give In, available now, is Will’s first album on his own Cumberland Recordings label. Packed tight with 11 songs (none of which last longer than about three-and-a-half minutes), the project is big on Mellencamp chords and soulful keys while Will’s raspy voice hints at Don Henley and Bruce Springsteen. Charging forward on “A Different Man,” Will’s blue-eyed soul sings out in celebration about how far he’s come in terms of the ability to care for the woman by his side. The themes of personal change play heavy on Never Give In as Will spends a lot of time examining the ways in which people do or do not evolve over time.
Sometimes the stories can be heart wrenching. The raw-boned “Home Is Where The Heart Breaks” depicts a young boy cut off from his parents both physically and emotionally. The best that I can hope for is just to die when I get old, Will sings with conviction on a song with no happy ending. A portrait of family life also comes on “Daddy Was A Gambling Man,” where acoustic guitars, pedal steel and piano pace a classic country song recalling the greats like George Jones and Kris Kristofferson. Will wrote or co-wrote every song on Never Give In and his sharp writing shows the ability to make even his most flawed characters sympathetic. The loose bar band tune “Bad Ol’ Days” comes from a straight-laced man who occasionally gets nostalgic for the times of women and whiskey and wicked ways while the sad ballad “This Time Around” realizes the errors in his judgment. Bluesy piano notes complement Will’s humble voice here to expertly capture that lonesome ache.
Though loneliness creeps into songs like the torn “Still Got You On My Mind” and the poignant “Damn Spotlight (Julia’s Song),” Never Give In is more glass-half-full than it is glass-half-empty. The exquisite and sparse “Strong” is the album’s emotional rock while the steady title-track fights hard for love. Will doesn’t give an inch on the project, fighting for his characters with a relentless message to never give up. It’s a powerful edict to part on and one that seems especially relevant for an artist on the verge of something very big with an album that can back it up.
Key Tracks – “Strong,” “Damn Spotlight (Julia’s Song),” “This Time Around,” “Home Is Where The Heart Breaks”