The genre of country music has broadened to incredible lengths over the past five or six years. Currently headlined by the grotesquely labeled ‘bro’ country and pop inspired country music, the landscape of country music has completely changed, and maybe for the better. The increased popularity of frequently abashed country stars like Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line has interestingly opened the doors for so many new or even veteran country artists to garner a greater following. One of these veteran artists is Will Hoge. Releasing his first album in 1997, Hoge flew under the radar until the release of his album Never Give In in 2013, which was met with critical acclaim. While still not as popular as current country headliners, Hoge gained well-deserved popularity leading to high anticipation for his newest album, Small Town Dreams, released earlier this week.
Hoge didn’t disappoint, as Small Town Dreams is likely to surpass the popularity of his last album. Hoge’s album is essentially a tribute to his hometown just outside Nashville, Tennessee and runs with the theme of living in small town America. Small Town Dreams is a complete, authentic country music album that refuses to even tease pop influence. Hoge is at his best on almost every track on the album, but his unique sound really shines in the tracks “Growing up Around Here”, “Better Than You”, “Guitar or a Gun”, and “Just up the Road”. Hoge starts off strong with his hit single “Growing up Around Here”, released earlier this year, and eventually transitions into “Better than You”, a track that is likely to become one of his more popular hits. Will Hoge continues to impress with the steel guitar heavy “Guitar or a Gun” and the equally upbeat “Middle of America”. “Just Up the Road” is a pleasant surprise as a piano heavy heartfelt track that rounds out the album.
The death of true country music is a topic frequently discussed by those who are passionate about the genre. I couldn’t disagree more. In fact, country music is at its peak. New, popular albums like those released by Aaron Watson, Will Hoge, and Jon Wolfe prove that authentic country music is still alive and well while country’s new identity continues to flourish.