The Essential Brad HoshawMar 03, 2016 02:41PM ● By James Walmsley
Hoshaw—who was raised on healthy doses of Johnny Cash and murder ballads—started releasing his virtuous blend of Americana, folk, and pop in 1998 against a chicer Omaha indie sound that would render him somewhat anonymous for most of the naughts. After joining forces with Matt Whipkey, Vern Fergesen, and J. Scott Gaeta, or The Seven Deadlies band, the 35-year-old eventually achieved name recognition as a regional songwriting powerhouse. He’s been committing songs against humanity ever since.
Gluttony: This isn’t your older brother or sister’s Brad Hoshaw. The raucous first chords of “Powdernose”—the leading track from 2009’s Brad Hoshaw and The Seven Deadlies self-titled album—assure the listener of just that, kicking in like a renegade cowboy ready to shoot up the place. Tragically, the lyrical patrons of Hoshaw’s fictitious saloon are too sick with vice to fight back.
Envy: If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Hoshaw’s cover of Kyle Harvey’s “It Falls Apart” sincerely takes the former local singer-songwriter to task. For as much as the woeful coda to 2014’s Funeral Guns espouses the same message as Harvey’s experimental effort, it’s clearly not the same song. Of course, Hoshaw’s more palpable rendition isn’t a conscious critique of the original but rather a byproduct of his master craftsmanship.
Sloth: One of the premiere tracks from Funeral Guns, “8 Ball” is the coming-of-age tale of heartbreak and a once popular fortune-telling toy. Throughout the idling experience, Hoshaw looks to a Magic 8 Ball for a clue as to why his former sweetheart of five years got hitched, thus axing their fated reunion. He’s left without an answer, forgetting to pose his inquiry in the form of a yes-or-no question.
Lust: The narrator of Hoshaw’s “Face of Man” could’ve limped off the pages of a Cormac McCarthy novel. He’s a murder ballad in the making, “Hey Joe” before the crime. But whether the brooding antihero is a lecherous madman or just a run-of-the-mill misogynist remains to be heard in The Seven Deadlies redux that first appeared on Hoshaw’s 2003 album Sketches from the Dream State. Either way, any hope that he’ll one day become a well-adjusted person is eventually shattered by a piercing Matt Whipkey guitar solo in the song’s eleventh hour.
Greed: Originally written for the local roots act The Black Squirrels, Hoshaw’s sonic act of charity, “Delta King,” later became the ninth track on Funeral Guns after the band broke up in 2011. While the cautionary folk tale betrays the album’s tough cowboy exterior, its commentary on excessive pursuit defends Hoshaw’s cynical theme: humankind is depraved.
Wrath: Judging from Hoshaw’s complete body of work, it’s tempting to think there isn’t a mean bone in it. Enter “Gone in a Minute,” the slightly spiteful track that admits, “You were wrong to think I was kind.” Ever the nice guy, Hoshaw instantly returns to his sympathetic ways, threatening to leave in a minute’s time...for two and a half minutes. If it’s any consolation, it’s still his shortest Seven Deadlies song.
Pride: Born from the deepest stirrings of Hoshaw’s ego, “Funeral Guns” came to the crooner in a dream, or so the story goes. The track, from the album with the same title, is a pseudo eulogy to Hoshaw’s deceased father, whose ascending ghost seems haunted by how he’ll be remembered by those he loved most. In the end, the proud son forgives and his song never forgets.
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