Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers
Band members Related acts
line up 1 (2016)
- J.V. Collier -- bass
- Gib Droll -- guitar
- Sonny Emory -- drums, percussion, washboard, cajon
- Ross Holmes -- fiddle, mandolin
- Bruce Hornsby -- vocals, keyboards, dulcimer
- John Thomas -- organ
supporting musician (2016)
- Moyes Lucas -- washboard
- Mavis Staples -- vocals
- Justin Vernon -- backing vocals
- none known
Rating: 3 stars ***
Title: Rehab Reunion
Company: 429 Records
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Catalog ID: --
2016's "Rehab Reunion" marked Bruce Hornsby's return to his own career after a seven year gap in albums and a stint touring and recording with The Grateful Dead. Self-produced and backed by longtime band The Noisemakers, the album was interesting on a number of levels. Among the most notable changes was Hornsby's decision to forsake his role as keyboardist in favor of picking up the lap dulcimer. Not exactly an instrument you hear featured in everyday rock albums, the instrument's four strings are momentarily fascinating, but stretched across ten tracks, I found the unique folksy sound quickly became irritating. Hornsby's unique sound remained intact, but on tracks like 'Over the Rise', 'Soon Enough' and a remake of 1988's 'The Valley Road' the heavy emphasis on acoustic instrumentation (and that dulcimer) gave the album a distinctive Americana sound. Nah, you weren't going to confuse this with a Steve Earle album, but it was a noticeable change in direction - one that didn't always knock my socks off. Those criticisms aside, there was plenty to like here. When given a chance to rock, The Noisemakers made the most of it. Check out the second half of 'Tipping', 'Tropical Cashmere Sweater' (co-written with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter), and they hysterical 'TSA Man.' Best of the lot was Hornsby's closing collaboration with the great Mavis Staples. Sounding like something that had been penned for a mid-'70s Staples Singers LP, 'Celestial Railroad' was simply a gem; easily the album's standout performance.
Reunion" track listing:
1.) Over the Rise (Bruce Hornsby) - 5:13 rating: *** stars
Hornsby on lap dulcimer ... It took a couple of spins to get acclimated to the folksy feel propelling 'Over the Rise.' It also took a while for his presence to be heard, but eventually Bon Iver's Justin Vernon distinctive vocals appeared. And just when I was starting to get into it, the tune drifted off into Grateful Dead territory. Guess I'll have to let this one mature awhile longer. YouTube has a nice performance of the tune pulled from an April 2019 at Brooklyn's National Sawdust: "Over The Rise" - Bruce Hornsby & The Noisemakers - YouTube
2.) Soon Enough (Bruce Hornsby - Chip deMatteo) - 4:41 rating: *** stars
I've always found the dulcimer to be an acquired taste and 'Soon Enough' simply served to reinforce that feeling. With a touch of Irish jig, the melody was certainly pretty enough but I kept waiting for the melody to kick into high gear. Never happened.
3.) M.I.A. in M.IA.M.I (Bruce Hornsby - Chip deMatteo) - 4:14 rating: *** stars
Seriously, by the time you got to 'M.I.A. in M.IA.M.I ' the emphasis on dulcimer threatened to give the entire album a "sounds-the-same" feel. Apparently an autobiographical overview of his college career, I'll admit the song was at least funny.
4.) Tipping (Bruce Hornsby - Chip deMatteo) - 3:44 rating: **** stars
The initial part of 'Tipping' didn't strike me as being too different from the earlier tracks, but when the band kicked in the song took off in a more rock oriented direction and the lyrics were actually pretty funny.
5.) Tropical Cashmere Sweater (Bruce Hornsby - Robert Hunter) - 6:08 rating: **** stars
Co-written with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, admittedly 'Tropical Cashmere Sweater' was side one's standout performance. Yeah after a side of lap dulcimer, the featured instrument had begun to wear out it's welcome. Luckily this tune showcased the Noisemakers were still able to rock out.
With a close loved one suffering from the pains of addiction, the bouncy title track initially struck a little too close to home. The lyrics certainly certainly struck a chord with me, but thankfully Hornsby's playful sense of humor was prominently displayed. Another tune where The Noisemakers rocked out.
2.) Hey Kafka (Bruce Hornsby - Chip deMatteo) - 4:18 rating: *** stars
Hornsby's stabs into thinking man's territory always make me smile. Seriously, how many other artists do you know that would decide to write a tune about a Bohemian writer like Franz Kafka? It's positively Kafkaesque. Yeah, it was a throwaway tune, but it was funny, Darn, I may even have to try to finish my old copy of "The Trial."
3.) TSA Man (Bruce Hornsby) - 4:12 rating: **** stars
Okay, Hornsby has a great sense of humor and it was seldom as obvious as on the comical "TSA Man." Your local Irish bar band meets Lorne Michaels and the Saturday Night Live Crows.
4.) The Valley Road (Bruce Hornsby - John Hornsby) - 6:45 rating: ** stars
The original version of 'The Valley Road' is close to my heart - a family member gave me a copy of "Scenes from the Southside" as a Christmas present and over the ensuing years I've played the LP dozens times. Admittedly, Hornsby totally reworked the song and while the folksy version was entertaining, I can't say it improved on the original. Unlike the rest of the album that was recorded in the studio, this one sounded like it was recorded live, before a small audience.
5.) Celestial Railroad (Bruce Hornsby) - 4:18 rating: **** stars
Even without Mavis Staples contributions, the glistening 'Celestial Railroad' would have been the album's highlight. With her performance this one was magnificent. How does a then-77 year old sound this good? How did Hornsby write something that sounded like it belonged on a mid-'70s Staples Singers album? Interestingly, Hornsby had written the tune some 25 years earlier with the thought it might be something The Staples might want to record. Staples' minor lyrical flub at the end of the song was priceless.
BACK TO BADCAT FRONT PAGE
BACK TO BADCAT CATALOG PAGE
BACK TO BADCAT PAYMENT INFORMATION