Year of the Album — #056
Will Hoge – “Number Seven” (2011, Rykodisc)
Shakespeare was a traitor
As far as I’m concerned
He wrote a bunch of stories
About stuff he never learned
He never loved a woman
Least not one as mean as you
Or Romeo would have just split town
And tried to find somebody new
With those words from “Fool’s Gonna Fly,” Will Hoge jumpstarts his seventh album, aptly titled Number Seven, with typical brutal honesty, and the bitter tone of this opening track sums up the album’s lyrical groundwork perfectly. This is an album about dreaming big, coming up short and trying to come to terms with where one stands in a world where everything has to fall sometime.
“The darkest shadows I’ve ever found were somewhere along these streets of gold,” Hoge sings on “Goddamn California,” bemoaning a world where “dreams are bought and sold.” “American Dream” slows it down even further and takes on a taste of Shawn Mullins meets James McMurtry as he updates McMurtry’s “You Can’t Make It Here Anymore” — “This is my American dream, and I’ve been all that I can be. With nothing left to lose at all I guess I’m free,” he sings, and the plight of the modern American seems to weigh heavy upon his sagging shoulders.
Few glimmers of hope get through the gloom, and Number Seven is a hard album to listen to straight through. Yet it’s a thematically dark album perfectly suited for an American landscape blighted by economic uncertainty, and it’s Hoge’s most spiritually honest album to date. These character sketches profile everyday Americans just trying to find a way through the fog to what glory waits on the other side. And for that, Number Seven is a can’t miss album.