Nashville-area native Will Hoge wastes no time or mercy lining up targets and hitting bull’s-eyes on his most recent album, “My American Dream”:
“I work two jobs to raise a family
While you’re livin’ off of everything your daddy left behind …
Another group of kids in a high school, dead
But you’re still at your golf course teein’ off at nine
People marchin’ in the streets tryin’ to find a little peace
You sit around spoutin’ more bullshit online” —“Gilded Walls”
Trump, the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan, and cruel anti-immigrant policies all inspire Hoge’s musical fire, as do once wild high school friends who’ve turned into gun-gripping Bible thumpers (the raucous “Nikki’s a Republican Now”). But as a father, the 45-year-old Hoge is particularly enraged by mass shootings, and the NRA.
Hoge’s always been a sharp, conscientious songwriter; even before 2012’s “Modern American Protest Music,” which sought to fill the contemporary protest song vacuum with earnest roots-rockers like “Ballad of Trayvon Martin” and “Jesus Came to Tennessee,” he wove egalitarian working-man themes through his albums. Any residual impulses to mind his political manners in red-state country were buried with concertgoers slaughtered at last year’s Route 91 Harvest music festival in Vegas. His gravelly howl punching words over an ominous chord progression, Hoge’s video for the scathing “Thoughts & Prayers” damns politicians with their own tweets.
“You’re just a whore to the guild that’s called ‘the NRA’ …
You could’a done somethin’ and we all wish that you would
To prove to the world you had one tiny ounce of good
But you’ll blame somebody else for all this despair
And not do a thing but offer up your thoughts and prayers”
Beyond a litany of injustices, “My American Dream” is a call to action; physical versions of the onetime history student’s album are packaged with copies of the Constitution. Lynyrd Skynyrd’s legacy haunts the righteous lines and guitar solos of “Still a Southern Man,” in which Hoge wrestles with his twisted cultural heritage and commits to upholding bloodied all-American values.
“The line really ain’t that thin between heritage and hate
One’s sayin’, ‘Yes ma’am’ and ‘Thank you’ and makin’ sure you pull your own weight
The other’s what happens when you try to hold down anybody that ain’t just like you
You can call it what you want but it’s a goddamn shame
And I’m glad I finally see the truth”
Hoge, who counts Vince Gill and Social Distortion frontman Mike Ness among his fans, has been touring with Social D, a timely opportunity that’s connected him to an audience viscerally responsive to blunt, pissed-off music. No question but that Hoge’s angry — and he’s channeling that anger with one eye on his audience and the other on Nov. 6.
Will Hoge headlines the Moroccan Lounge, 901 E. 1st St., downtown LA, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 30; $15-$18. Mike Ness protégé Jade Jackson opens. Info: (213) 395-0610. Willhoge.com, the Moroccan.com