To download a free MP3 of Will Hoge's "Silver or Gold," click here.
Will Hoge evokes opposite things, calling an album something like Draw the Curtains. He could mean the end of an act, signaling the house lights to rise and the brooms to start their work, or maybe just the opposite—pulling the curtains open to let the sunshine in for a new day’s dawn.
Hoge mires listeners in the former through much of Draw the Curtains, his gritty croon wriggling through rebuked apologies, disappointments, and bitter endings.
The Nashville soul-rock songsmith has had his share of bitter business endings—his brief dalliance early in the decade as an Atlantic Records artist didn’t make for many positive interview quotes after it ended. But given the vibrant year of road-heavy promoting for last year’s self-released The Man Who Killed Love and the new deal with Rykodisc for Draw the Curtains, business strife certainly wouldn’t seem the thing to put Hoge in a dark place. He’s going more for the gut here, and it aches indeed.
“Take this tiny band of gold, for no more will it shine/ And everything that once was ours is now just yours and mine,” Hoge howls through “Dirty Little War,” the broken crags that trace his delivery punctuating his excruciating divorce lament.
Hoge could’ve evoked the comfortable, minivan soul that Edwin McCain does well enough, pondering broken hearts over soulful-slow and pretty melodies like the ones in “Dirty Little War” or the similarly achy “Silver or Gold.” But he doesn’t—even the pretty stuff is made of something dirtier and inherently more dangerous, maybe born of all those nights Hoge and his band spent hustling their music across the country’s beer-warped stages, long past label support but certainly not without drinks, smokes, and ambition.
The fire comes out plenty on Draw the Curtains too—“Sex, Lies and Money” stomps like a Nashville honky tonk after the tourists have tuckered out, fuzzy chord slashes from a Les Paul Standard holding in the air until they’re smacked into taut, bluesy bursts.
But even here, Hoge’s focused on matters of the heart. He admits that he, “Don’t wanna hear no talk about falling in love” before hollering at a former flame and her new, more affluent suitor, “Got a card made of platinum and a watch made of gold/ I hope you both get happy, get fat, and get old.”
Love like that’ll get you fired up, certainly, and it’s the fire here—both in Hoge’s Stax soul-cum-Joe Cocker-cum-Springsteen vocals and the gut-forward, expressive guitar and organ work—that’ll make rock and soul fanatics light up listening to it. It’s hard to project pain and still sound strong, to spill your shortcomings and not have it come off like an affectation; hurt only avoids becoming a snivel through a core of guarded optimism.
Hoge gives up that core in the album’s title track, singing over gentle acoustic plucks and strums, “If you come to me like honey in the springtime, I’d fall into your arms like rain/ The one thing that’s certain/ In the morning when we draw the curtains, it’ll be a brand new day.”
Rendering all these dark themes as elegantly as he does on Draw the Curtains, Hoge’s certainly due some sunshine.