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the Before and After
Artist: Will Hoge
Recorded at the Workplay Theatre in Birmingham, Alabama, During the Before and After features Will Hoge and bandmates in full rock and roll glory. While not quite a “true” live album (stage patter between songs is edited out, the setlist is incomplete, there is some in studio mixing for sound levels), it feels more live than most. Crowd interaction is apparent throughout, to the point where an editor might have been welcome at times.
Hoge’s vocals are equal parts Adam Duritz (Counting Crows), Paul Westerburg (Replacements), and southern blues rock. The concert features tunes from Hoge’s three studio albums: Carousel, Blackbird on a Lonely Wire, and The America EP; he also throws in a longtime concert staple: a cover version of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine.”
Fan favorites such as “Secondhand Heart”, “Ms. Williams”, and “Not that Cool” are here, and well as newer tracks such as the eerily mournful “Bible vs. Gun”. Hoge’s approach has also been a simple one: write good songs, and play rock and roll. Bandmates Brian Layson, Dean “Pork Chop” Tomasek, Jefferson Crow, and Doy Gardner have embraced this and provide a wall of sound that Hoge’s vocals ride upon.
Record companies take note: this band is unsigned. In an age of singers who get signed because of their appearance, and not their talent, the fact that an artist like Will Hoge is unsigned should be a criminal offense. First, his vocals. Secondly, he actually writes and plays his own songs. Third (and trust me on this), he has that quality that sells: women love him, and guys want to be him.
There are only two small drawbacks to this album. First, it is not a complete set form that night. Secondly, and much more egregious, any live album featuring Will Hoge should have included a live acapella performance of “Carouse,” a traditional concert favorite. Other than that, this is one of the best live albums I’ve heard in several years.
Brian A. Smith