At a glance Bruce Hornsby looks like just another 80s pop star who had a few major hits back in the day but has since slipped into nostalgic obscurity. Look closer and you'll find a master musician who used that early success to carve out a fascinating, varied career. In the 28 years since his huge smash The Way It Is Hornsby became a defacto member of the Grateful Dead, recorded a bluegrass album with Ricky Skaggs, a jazz album with Christian McBride and Jack DeJohnette, written soundtracks for Spike Lee, won three grammys and appeared on an enormous list of other people's records including Bill Evans, Chris Whitley, Stevie Knicks, Bela Fleck, Bob Dylan, Robbie Robertson, Huey Lewis and Bonnie Raitt.
He was one of the first artists that I started collecting bootlegs from and I now own hundreds of hours of his live performances. His live shows run in two modes: with the band and solo. With his touring band his shows are behemoth conglomerations of improvised jazz, rock, folk, funk, Motown and everything in-between. His players are experts at playing on the fly and they love to stretch a song out to new and amazing heights. His solo shows are much more intimate with just him and his piano (and sometimes a little synthesizer sitting on top of his piano.) In this setting you don't get the big, full sound he gets with a band but the songs can be stripped down to their bare essence.
In any given performance he'll play songs from his near thirty years of making records while throwing in covers ranging from Bill Monroe to Pink Floyd, The Grateful Dead to Scott Joplin. These are all done without a set list and on the fly. This is especially true during his solo shows where he doesn't have to lead an entire band and can just play whatever jumps into his mind.
Hornsby is a great concert conversationalist as well. I have many recordings where he'll spend several minutes just chatting with the crowd and telling stories. I swear I could listen to him recite the phone book and still go home happy.
He's released two other live albums the excellent Here Come the Noisemakers and Bride of the Noisemakers. Both were with full bands, Solo Concert is his first officially released live album featuring Hornsby as a solo act (not counting his myriad of download only live albums.)
If its as good as his other two live released (or the multiple bootlegs I own) this should be and excellent edition to my library. and more than enough reason to make it my Pick of the Week.
Also out this week that looks interesting:
Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One (2 CD Deluxe Edition) - The Kinks: To celebrate the 50th anniversary of their first US hit single "You Really Got Me" the Kinks are reissuing all of their albums. This one comes with both mono and stereo mixes, unreleased material and alternate takes from the original tapes plus a big book of images and new liner notes.
Man Upstairs - Robyn Hitchcock: I'm not a big Hitchock fan but his new albums always get a few people excited.
Tied to a Star - J Mascis: The Dinosaur Jr frontman makes a mostly acoustic solo record. The last one was pretty good and I'm always up for more music by Mascis.
Junto - Basement Jaxx: I always heard amazing things about these guys back in the 90s but never bothered with them. I guess maybe now I should.
Swimmin' Time - Shovels & Rope: Our jefe won't stop talking about this band or this album no matter how much we ask him to. I might have to see if his ravings have merit.