By Cliff Clifford
Cut from the same faded denim as Springsteen circa the original release of Born To Run, Will Hoge is a Nashville-based singer/songwriter with just a hint of a southern drawl. Like Springsteen, he sings with grit, raw emotion, intensity, and heart-on-his-sleeve passion. Luckily for the listener, he embraces and accepts his southern heritage on his latest platter, welcoming into the mix pure old-fashioned Memphis funk 'n soul.
Hoge's third studio full-length, the self-released The Man Who Killed Love, finds him teaming with veteran Nashville studio session producers Ken Coomer (Uncle Tupelo, Wilco) and Charlie Brocco, as well as adding horns and soulful, gospel-drenched backing vocals on several tracks. But as opener "Pocketful of Change" makes clear, he never strays from his pure rock roots. With slick slide guitar laid down courtesy of Hoge's longtime sidekick Bryan Layson and the pounding rhythm of bassist Dean Tomasek, this three-minute ode to the rock lifestyle packs quite a pop punch. Then the thick funk kicks in on "Love From A Scar" with trombones, saxophones, and gospel backing vocals. Lyrically though, it's vintage Hoge - love hurts.
Several tracks here feature the backing vocals of Trina Meade and Ericka Smith and the horns of Jay Davidson and Steve Jankowski. Others, such as the shot of adrenaline "I Got A Habit" and the bass-heavy and searing title track, are straight-up rock nuggets that in another day would be radio playlist staples.
The ladies are back on what's perhaps the CD's most enduring and hook-laden song, "Heart's Are Gonna Roll," along with the dual guitars of Layson and Audley Freed (Black Crowes). And the horns return on the Memphis funk of "July Moon." Closing full-circle is the elegant string-laden ballad "Lover Tonight," with lovely keys laid down by Jefferson Crow alongside the rocker's plea not to be left alone again. The only misstep in this collection is "Woman Be Strong" a way-too-direct descendant of the Otis Redding chestnut "Try A Little Tenderness."
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