Bruce Hornsby & The Noisemakers
Producer: Bruce Hornsby
Review: Dave Leary
Anyone who has followed Bruce Hornsby for the last 30 years (and not just his commercial peak in the late ‘80s) has learned to expect the unexpected. The piano-based pop/rock of his albums with the Range led to more diversity on later albums (such as the jazz leanings on Hot House and the electronic sounds on Big Swing Face).
For his first studio album since 2009’s Levitate, Hornsby plays the dulcimer only, no piano here. Longtime band members JV Collier (bass), Sonny Emory (drums/percussion) and JT Thomas (keyboards) are joined by Gibb Droll replacing Doug Derryberry on guitar and Ross Holmes on mandolin and fiddle.
If I had to categorize this record, I would say it falls into the folk/Americana category with a touch of country, especially on the title track. I saw Hornsby in May at the Hard Rock Rocksino near Cleveland. The audience really seemed to enjoy the new songs and they sound almost the same here.
Hornsby’s songwriting is very sharp. Most of the tunes showcase his wit and humor, especially “TSA Man” and “Rehab Reunion”. And how many would write a song about Franz Kafka (“Hey Kafka”? There’s a reworking of his top 5 hit from 1988 “The Valley Road” that allows all the band members to really shine. The album closes with “Celestial Railroad” featuring Mavis Staples. Hornsby wrote the songs years ago in the hope that the Staples Singers would record it but it never happened. It sounds like a classic Hornsby song and is a perfect end to the album.
The musicianship here is impressive. Droll’s guitar playing often sounds like Jerry Garcia’s and Holmes is a virtuoso on mandolin and fiddle.
If you’re a die-hard Hornsby fan as I am, you won’t be disappointed. But if it’s been a while since you listened to his music, definitely give it a listen. There’s a lot to enjoy here.
01. Over The Rise
02. Soon Enough
03. M.I.A. in M.I.A.M.I.
05. Rehab Reunion
06. Hey Kafka
07. Tropical Cashmere Sweater
09. The Valley Road
10. Celestial Railroad
For more on Bruce Hornsby check out www.brucehornsby.com