Will Hoge kicks a roots-rock reactionary movement in the ass with his first studio release, "Carousel." Hoge twists and turns with melancholy at almost every corner, but like a few of his more established and slightly more watered-down contemporaries (Counting Crows, Wallflowers), it never quite reaches that "kill me" point. Just about when he starts getting somewhere lyrically, an upbeat hook or catchy chorus interrupts the sadness.
Hoge reiterates tales of uptown girls, downtown bars, cigarettes, fools, red lipstick, packing bags and loneliness -- and, of course, the requisite tune about the disillusionment of rock & roll stardom. But there's a distinct intensity in the impatient drums, Southern-charm guitar, contagious bass and scratchy wool voice that is as irresistible.