All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

4

Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers: Rehab Reunion

Geno Thackara By

Sign in to view read count
A Bruce Hornsby album with no piano sounds sort of like a Chinese dinner without rice. Well, upon further consideration it may not be quite as crazy as it sounds. The man's career is defined by nothing if not restlessness, and he's managed to do something fresh and different almost every time out. The most surprising thing he could do would be to not surprise us somehow.

Rehab Reunion shows that that danger is as remote as ever. His longtime backing band The Noisemakers last appeared on record with the live Bride of the Noisemakers (429 Records, 2011), after which we've seen a solo movie score, the bluegrass jaunt Cluck Ol' Hen with Ricky Skaggs (Skaggs Family Records, 2014), a joint tour alongside the Pat Metheny Unity Group, the demanding virtuosic performances of Solo Concerts (Vanguard, 2014) and 2015's Fare Thee Well stint with the Grateful Dead. Along the way the band changed two members in 2014 to accommodate his gradual drift toward folk, trading steady saxophone for extra guitar, fiddle and mandolin.

Along with this shift came a habit of strumming a four-string dulcimer for the first couple numbers of each show, and the traditionally Appalachian instrument only helps reinforce the essential streak of Americana that's always run underneath all the genre-hopping. Its simplicity made a striking break from all that time at the piano developing two-hand independence skills and exploring all spectrums of tonalities. Approaching something so differently patterned (the equivalent of having only white keys, as he puts it) also provided a great means to push himself in a sideways direction, paradoxically finding liberation in self-imposed limitations.

The upshot is a vibrant record that refreshingly gives the sometimes-overlooked facets of his music their place to shine. Even with spider-fingers virtuosity left out of the equation this time around, Hornsby carries the proceedings singing with rustic charm and spinning sweet homey melodies left and right. Meanwhile there's still a good dose of instrumental playfulness on the part of the band as they enjoy exploring their new dynamic. A couple tracks include solo shout-outs and faint whoops that suggest they were recorded live, which is always a benefit where this crew is concerned.

He may sometimes be a bit too willing to stretch a rhyme for a low-key chuckle, but at least the weaker lyrics (the tacked-on jokeyness of "Tipping" and "T.S.A. Man") are balanced out by the fun factor of Southern-style Noisemakers bounce and stomp. Those tracks make just a slight dip in quality amidst a colorful range of unassuming hooks and beautiful choruses. Sugary Jerry Garcia-like guitar nestles together with down-home fiddling and an always-lively sense of rhythm. The album finds room for a twangy title track most likely spurred by past sojourns with Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder, a smarter helping of silly wordplay with "Hey Kafka," and yet another reinvention of his perennial staple "The Valley Road"—now in its sixth different arrangement to date by my count, this one a lighthearted Dixie waltz complete with washboard percussion.

Hornsby wisely bookends the disc with its strongest moments. Bon Iver's Justin Vernon adds subtle vocal shadings on the elegant "Over the Rise," suggesting something optimistic in that charming way he has. At the other end the finale "Celestial Railroad" is also not coincidentally elevated by a guest vocalist, this time letting Mavis Staples lead a bright gospel singalong to bring us on up to the big house. It's a fine celebration, warmly inviting and blissfully unself-conscious; a fun capper to a fun album and another happy indication that there are more good times waiting around the bend.

Track Listing: Over the Rise; Soon Enough; M.I.A. in M.I.A.M.I.; Tipping; Rehab Reunion; Hey Kafka; Tropical Cashmere Sweater; T.S.A. Man; The Valley Road; Celestial Railroad.

Personnel: Bruce Hornsby: dulcimer, vocals; J.T. Thomas: organ; Gibb Droll: guitar; Ross Holmes: fiddle, mandolin; J.V. Collier: bass; Sonny Emory: washboard, cajon, drums; Justin Vernon: vocals (1); Mavis Staples: vocals (10).

Title: Rehab Reunion | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: 429 Records

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Live Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Interviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Music and the Creative Spirit
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Rehab Reunion

Rehab Reunion

429 Records
2016

buy
 

Red Hook Summer

The Plumed Horse
2012

buy
Levitate

Levitate

Verve Music Group
2009

buy
Camp Meeting

Camp Meeting

Legacy Recordings
2007

buy
Bruce Hornsby: Intersections [1985-2005]

Bruce Hornsby:...

Legacy Recordings
2006

buy
 

Halcyon Days

Emerald Green Sound
2004

buy

Related Articles

Read Lab 2018, The Rhythm of the Road CD/LP/Track Review
Lab 2018, The Rhythm of the Road
by Jack Bowers
Published: September 25, 2018
Read Live CD/LP/Track Review
Live
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: September 25, 2018
Read 8 Songs CD/LP/Track Review
8 Songs
by Roger Farbey
Published: September 25, 2018
Read Facing Dragons CD/LP/Track Review
Facing Dragons
by Chris Mosey
Published: September 25, 2018
Read Brothers CD/LP/Track Review
Brothers
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: September 24, 2018
Read The Fearless Flyers CD/LP/Track Review
The Fearless Flyers
by John Bricker
Published: September 24, 2018
Read "8 Songs" CD/LP/Track Review 8 Songs
by Roger Farbey
Published: September 25, 2018
Read "Makes the Heart to Sing: Jazz Hymns" CD/LP/Track Review Makes the Heart to Sing: Jazz Hymns
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 16, 2017
Read "Life In Space" CD/LP/Track Review Life In Space
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 3, 2017
Read "OR" CD/LP/Track Review OR
by Geno Thackara
Published: January 18, 2018
Read "No Mundo Dos Sons" CD/LP/Track Review No Mundo Dos Sons
by Harry S. Pariser
Published: October 12, 2017
Read "Solo" CD/LP/Track Review Solo
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: January 13, 2018