It's highly unlikely that Will Hoge will ever achieve the household name status that has been afforded to some of the artists that have been namechecked in his reviews. The Nashville native's profile nudged a little higher with his 2012 Grammy nomination for "Even If It Breaks Your Heart," covered by the Eli Young Band and ridden all the way to number one on the country charts, but the subsequent eight years have not produced record sales that would warrant a 50-room mansion and a guitar-shaped swimming pool.
Thankfully, none of that nonsense is even remotely important to Hoge, who was on a career path to become a history teacher when he dropped out of college to pursue music. The wisdom of that decision is in evidence throughout "Tiny Little Movies," Hoge's 11th studio album since his 2001 debut "Carousel," as he balances his inherent need to address the state of the union with his natural leanings toward intense personal reflection.
On the Springsteenesque acoustic-guitar-with-ephemeral-atmospherics of "Even the River Runs Out of This Town," Hoge paints his Tennessee rasp all over the tale of a failed relationship, while the Drive-By Truckers-tinged "The Overthrow" finds him contemplating the hypocrisy of collection plate religion ("First rat off a dead ship/See you sinking like a stone/TV preacher with a fat lip/Crying in the pulpit all alone") and the character of our candy-colored clown-in-chief ("Slow dancing with a straw man/with a match and gasoline/Darth Vader with a spray tan/And a girly magazine").
"Tiny Little Movies" is rife with references to the giants of roots and Americana, from the aforementioned DBT ("My Worst," where Hoge ponders his role in said failed relationship) to Steve Earle ("That's How You Lose Her") to Tom Petty ("The Curse") to John Mellencamp ("Is This All You Wanted Me For") and furious amalgams of all of the above ("Maybe This is OK"). Hoge's true gift, on "Tiny Little Movies" and throughout his sterling catalog, is his flawless ability to synthesize those recognizable elements into his unique stylistic identity while simultaneously offering incisive and brilliantly crafted lyrical observations that exude just the right amount of nose-thumbing at Nashville's staid country conventions. Like John Hiatt, Will Hoge's songwriting excellence will incidentally translate well as mainstream money-making covers and provide him the means to do whatever the hell he wants to do within the loose confines of his solo career.