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Hoge happy on his own terms

Brighton Music Hall, Boston, August 16, 2015

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Halfway through his show, veteran Nashville heartland rocker Will Hoge took aim at a Music City songwriter, who he claimed he liked. Even though, as Hoge pointed out, the writer tended to go negative such as with the comment that Hoge's major label career was well behind him.

Hoge acknowledged the obvious - that the writer was right - before giving it back a bit to the journalist. No small matter for Hoge because nine studio albums, three EPs and five live albums into his career, Hoge, 41, seems very content to be exactly where he is.

There's no major label behind him (Hoge did have one album out on Atlantic way back in 2003), only his reputation as a formidable live act and at least one big hit that he wrote, which was recorded by someone else (Eli Young Band).

That seemed good enough for Hoge in a 115-minute show that exuded confidence, musical chops and a bunch of good songs.

Tom Petty would be an obvious reference point for Hoge with uptempo, somewhat anthemic rockers "Better Than You," "Second Hand Heart" and "Desperate Times" from his latest "Small Town Dreams" release comprising the opening. These songs rocked, in part because of sharp guitar playing from Patrick Stevens.

About halfway through, Hoge changed it up with an acoustic stint and more country-oriented songs. Among them was the mid-tempo "Even If It Breaks Your Heart," the biggest song of his career thanks to country band Eli Young Band converting it into a major hit. He also played "Through Missing You," a song that will be out as part of a book in February 2016, solo acoustic.

The Petty influence abounded during the show with the mid-tempo "Growing Up Around Here" before segueing into the more uptempo "Favorite Waste of Time."

Hoge and his quartet went back to their rocking ways towards the end, coming full circle and closing with the roots rock of "Bad Old Days" where he let loose on guitar as he did on more than a few occasions.

Hoge soon brought it down a bunch of notches closing with "Julia's Song," a tribute to his wife and being away from home. With a commendable outing before an appreciative crowd, Hoge showed doing it on your terms isn't so bad.

Josiah Early has been better known as an actor (he had a short stint on "Boardwalk Empire") than as a musician. In fact, he lives on a farm in Virginia, but he's been taking his music seriously.

In a solo acoustic performance, the engaging Early poured his heart into the material, including a song (Feels This Way") about someone who had passed away.

Early is a work in progress as he had to pull out his set list a number of times and had a misstep or two on a few songs, but the amiable, very appreciative Early left the impression of an artist in development instead of one with no future.