Will Hoge has earned quite an artist-friendly recording deal with Atlantic Records. The label released his big-league debut, Blackbird On A Lonely Wire, to critical acclaim last March. Prior to this, Atlantic sent him on a short promotional stint, performing solo-acoustic sets as an opener for Lisa Loeb. The live document, Almost Alone, recorded at the intimate Smith’s Olde Bar in Atlanta, adds Nashville-based bandmates Brian Layson on guitar and John Lancaster on keyboards. This will be the first in a series of limited-edition, independently released live CD’s, sold through Hoge’s Web site as collector’s pieces for fans.
The 11 tracks of Almost Alone span Hoge's five-year career as a songwriter. "Let Me Be Lonely," "Ms. Williams" and an especially gut-wrenching "Hey Tonight" are performed solo, showcasing his bourbon-soaked falsetto and heart-on-sleeve lyrics. He pokes fun at his own Dave Mathews' mannerisms and then introduces Layson and Lancaster, ad-libbing his way into the melancholic "Your Fool." Lancaster's B3 organ fills are a highlight on Lonely Wire's first single "Be the One," as is the stark nakedness of Layson’s stunningly elegant ballad, "Someone Else's Baby,” a song he wrote for his daughter.
The mood throughout the performance is lighthearted, from the poppy "She Don't Care About Me" to "LA TV Blues," a monologue introducing the kiss-off, "Better Off Now (That You're Gone)."
The only detractor to this disc is that the acoustic format doesn’t capture the intensity and energy of Hoge's usual Springsteen-like performances. But for the die-hard Hoge fan, Almost Alone is a must have.