REVIEW: Lucas Hoge – ‘Dirty South’

LifeInASong_UK

Lucas Hoge grew up in Nebraska, in a small town with a population of just 44 people. His musical career began as he found himself in rock band “Southern Cross” and “Xtreme Devotion”, a Christian music group, before making the move to Nashville at the turn of the century. Instantly impressing with his songwriting prowess, Warner Bros. featured his song “If I Only Could” on the hit TV show “Smallville.”

Soon after, he began racking up numerous TV, film and commercial opportunities. He scored a 13-episode series for HBO, wrote a jingle for Lipton Tea and appeared with Faith Hill in the TV campaign for NBC’s “Sunday Night Football.” He also starred in the Animal Planet TV show “Last Chance Highway,” (and wrote the theme tune) amongst others.

His new album is the culmination of years of hard work, writing incessantly and performing for crowds all over the world. “I feel I’ve been hoeing my row for a long time and I’ve stayed true to exactly who I am,” he says. “I’m just going to be a nice guy and put good out there and hopefully get good back because that’s how mom and dad taught me. I’m going to cling to my roots and keep my head about myself.  I just want to be the best me I can be.”

‘Dirty South’ is his first full-length album for five years, and it has shot into the top 5 of the Billboard Country Albums Chart in its first 2 weeks.

He was prompted to perform his songs by seeing a live show by Garth Brooks, who gives his name to Power of Garth, a track with some very nice pedal steel and this chorus:

Every time I hear The Thunder Rolls, I’m right back to ten years old…
I was too young to understand why mama cried when she heard The Dance
These melodies will forever be wrapped around my heart, and that’s the power of Garth

Who’s Gonna Be There is a ballad in memory of his friend Michael Berry, who died in a car accident as a teenager. It shows the influence of Lucas’s past in a Christian rock band, and the riff is oddly similar to the Green Day song Wake Me Up When September Ends.

Did I love deep enough? Had my friends knew I cared, was I willing to share?
Did I give of myself? Did the world out there know that I was even here?
Did I take or did I serve? Did I celebrate my life here on earth?
Who’s gonna be there to say goodbye?

As strings emphasise the pathos of the message, Lucas celebrates, emotionally, ‘the richest man I knew’. It sounds like a Johnny Cash song, and it is the most tender track on the album.

Most of the other eight tracks are in the current Nashville pop vein, meaning that Thomas Rhett fans will find much to enjoy. Opening track Shoo Fly Pie compares a girl favourably to a sweet dessert, while equally lovely is To Go with the Whiskey, where Lucas encourages his girl to put on a lovely dress while on the phone to him.

Boom Boom is a driving song about fidelity with a sweet piano and acoustic guitar part, and Flip Flops (‘bikini tops strolling out on the boulevard’) is a perfect summer song with a charming musical backing. Jake Owen would be proud of it.

Halabamalujah is, as the title suggests, a fun tune: ‘I don’t know your name but I sure know where you came from’ is a great line, while A little dabadoo ya is probably the way to spell the line in the chorus that rhymes with the title. ‘I wish that I knew you but I don’t,’ Lucas sings, his eye caught by a fine girl. Initially the song was released in 2014, and the ‘hey baby’ locates it in the common lyrical motif of the time.

In a similar tenor is the title track, with a great use of steel guitar and a fun chorus to sing live:

Cover me up like country gravy
Underneath the shade of an old magnolia
Let me chase that cherry cola with a kiss from your lips
And lay you down, down, down in the dirty South 

That Ain’t Cool is a slow song about Lucas’s dad telling him not to smoke, and his friend advising him not to drink and drive (‘I know it’s hard in this world with the fitting in, but you gotta know what you’re getting into’) and in the final verse he walks away from a woman in a bar who wants him to ‘take a chance’ and test his love.

Lucas has learned the lessons from his childhood, and will gain plaudits from the listeners. More than just a good-time guy, Lucas is an accomplished performer and this collection is enjoyable to put on repeat.

Jonny Brick

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