Written by Andrew Howie
When I first threw on the new Bruce Hornsby album, Rehab Reunion, I didn’t know what to expect. Hornsby is a living legend in the music scene; he’s led his own bands such as the Noisemakers and the Range. In addition he was a prominent satellite member of the Grateful Dead in the early ’90s, filling the keyboard spot left by the tragic death of Brent Mydland. His sound draws from every genre under the sun, from jam band to Celtic bluegrass, R&B, gospel, funk, folk, soul, ambient, jazz, and beyond. He’s been an award-winning musician for decades now, and his influence is widespread over the current younger generation of bands looking to broaden their sound.
The first track off the new album starts out sounding like a medieval courtyard minstrel group, delicate and Old English-esque, adding guitar and percussion as it moves along before building to a wonderful crescendo that leaves you refreshed and eager for the rest of the record. The medieval theme continues throughout the album, providing the base that Hornsby uses as his launch pad for blues, folk, alt-country, and soaring psychedelic jams. You can definitely hear the lingering influence of his time with Jerry Garcia, and he weaves it together with classical folk string symphonies and infectious melodies that tug right at your heartstrings.
One thing I did notice particularly about this album is the joyful tone juxtaposed against sometimes depressing subject matter. It reminds me of traditional Celtic music I listened to as a kid, like the Clancy Brothers. Mandolins sing out brightly over the main verse chords, and it just makes you want to dance in the grass. It’s music that would be equally at home as the soundtrack for a barbecue, the background noise at a beach party, on a main stage at a summer music festival, a late-night bonfire jam in the country, or even just keeping you company on a rainy day inside. It’s very soothing, wistful and dreamy. I can’t wait to see it performed live.
Seriously, if you haven’t heard this album yet, do yourself a major favor and check it out today. It’s absolutely delightful, and it gets stuck in your bones more and more with every song. It’s the kind of album that makes you say “Wow” more and more the further you get into it. The music isn’t too complicated, but just complicated enough while being very accessible to newcomers and old fans alike.
Bruce Hornsby is a tremendously skilled musician and bandleader, and he continues to reinvent himself and provide something new and unique with each new record. Rehab Reunion is no exception. I’m only on my second listen and I already can’t wait to start it again. I hope this finds its way into your collection and brings you the same kind of joy.
Rating 9.5 out of 10