Will HogeWill Hoge
Album: Small Town Dreams
Label: Thirty Tigers
Tracks: 11

Raised just south of Nashville, Hoge's been around for a while, releasing his debut solo album in 2001, leading to a deal with Atlantic that saw that reissued and spawned an underpromoted follow-up. Following a self-released third album in 2006, he then signed to Rykodisc, releasing three more albums and two EPs as well as earning a Country Song of the Year Grammy nomination for Even If It Breaks Your Heart, a country No 1 for the Eli Young Band. The self -released Modern American Protest Music followed before moving to Nashville independent Cumberland Records in 2013 for the critically and commercially successful Never Give In and, now, this, his tenth.

Already a hit in the US country charts, its feet are firmly planted in the heartland soil, rooted in the same blue collar Americana as Petty, Springsteen and Mellencamp, something made potently clear with guitar ringing opener Growing Up Around Here and reinforced by the anthemic, major chords like of They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To, Better Than You, a rousing rocking ''Til I Do It Again and, the lyrics providing the album title, the spirit-stirring Middle of America.

The poignant Little Bitty Dreams (a song about how underachieving isn't the same as failure), aspirational piano led power ballad Just Up The Road and a soulful, bluesy The Last Thing I Needed show he's equally adept at the slower numbers, while (conjuring thoughts of Bon Jovi's countrified ballads) the storysong Guitar Or A Gun reinforces his acknowledged skill as a literate and thoughtful writer.

Although feted back home by peers and critics where he has a solid following, Hoge deserves to be much more widely known and appreciated (to which end he plays his first full band UK dates in September), something this album most certainly has the punch and the power to deliver.

Mike Davies