Will Hoge's latest sees him evoking classic rock influence and the white-soul shouters of yore 

Number Seven With a Bullet

Number Seven With a Bullet

Will Hoge stays within the confines of classic rock throughout his new full-length Number Seven — you'll hear echoes of John Mellencamp, Elvis Costello and Springsteen. In fact, Hoge often sounds uncannily like Costello, and the two share a certain moral fervor that Costello sometimes translates into jokes. Hoge keeps the songwriting basic, which suits a set of songs about the perfidy of women, the plight of homeless Americans and illegal immigration.

With his white-soul voice, Hoge really does evoke Costello, but I hear traces of such schlock-soul singers as Marc Cohn and Joe Cocker. "Goddamn California" finds the Tennessee native adrift in a sunlit dystopia: "Nobody tells you who they are / Only who they want to be." Like the rest of Number Seven, the song details the downside of consorting with no-good, deceptive people.

Number Seven is morose stuff made even more harrowing by Hoge's tense vocal style. He hits it right with the rocking "Nothing to Lose" and the concise "No Man's Land," which registers as an ace Old 97's rip. Hoge writes topical narratives in the first person — his song about homelessness is pretty good — but I like him better as a rock 'n' roller.

Rating: 3.5/5.0

Email music@nashvillecream.com.

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