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Published: 2016/07/01
by Larson Sutton

Bruce Hornsby
Rehab Reunion

Bruce Hornsby’s all-in commitment to the dulcimer on Rehab Reunion was a conscious move for the keyboard master; the range and tonality of the stringed instrument challenging him and providing a palette of songwriting possibilities that was both directed and free. Through a series of songs that ripple with acoustic adornments like washboard, mandolin, and fiddle Hornsby leads the Noisemakers, organically constructing walls of rhythm that support his commentaries on topics like the proper gratuity (“Tipping”) and Franz Kafka (“Hey Kafka”). The Noisemakers are ideal partners, their embellishments never crowding Hornsby’s vocal as it works its way through each number. There is a discernible ‘live’ feeling about the record, especially on “The Valley Road,” which gives the players a chance to quietly make some noise for the barely conspicuous presence of an audience. Gibb Droll’s subtle and serene guitar contributions are so enjoyable that it’s hard not to wish he played more, but that’s part of the brilliance, as not all noise needs to be loud or lingering to be memorable. Lending their talents to the opening and closing tracks, respectively, are Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon on “Over The Rise” and Mavis Staples for “Celestial Railroad,” the latter proof of just how groovy gospel can be in the right hands. As prevalent a choice as the dulcimer is on Rehab Reunion, it’s more cause than effect, drawing out of Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers an album much more rooted than it is out on a limb.

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