Bruce Hornsby & The Noisemakers: Rehab Reunion
For anyone who’s followed Bruce Hornsby’s long career, a read through the liner notes (or iTunes description) of Rehab Reunion, his new album with The Noisemakers, may leave the impression that something is missing. Indeed, there isn’t a piano to be found on the record, as Hornsby leads the charge through 10 new tracks strumming an Appalachian dulcimer. The result is fresh, fun and folky—the sound of a veteran songwriter finding brand new energy, and laying that lightning down on wax. Hornsby, a self-described beginner on the dulcimer, calls the record his “punk moment,” but the relative simplicity of the music is its strength. Most of the tunes on Rehab Reunion present perfect poprock songwriting: joyous, sing-along choruses, clever lyrics and free-and-easy musicianship. “Celestial Railroad” is pure positivity, with Hornsby and the legendary Mavis Staples declaring, “We gonna take a ride” over a breezy, soulful groove. The gorgeous, subdued “Over the Rise” features Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon singing falsetto. As a lyricist, Hornsby’s very human writing perfectly matches the warm, flowing music. He occasionally gets too cute like in the chorus of “Tipping” (“Five or 10 percent’s too cheap; 20 percent is too steep; don’t know how to get to 15 percent”), but his storytelling is largely captivating. On the title track, he’s “nervous as a cat, called my sponsor three times” when encountering former rehab buddies. On the beautiful “Soon Enough,” he’s a troubled teen “raising hell across the state.” Nearly four decades on, Hornsby proves that he’s still got some wonderful tricks up his sleeve.