If you don’t think of “The Way It Is” or “Mandolin Rain” when you hear the name Bruce Hornsby, you probably weren’t around in 1987 when “The Way It Is” was the most-played song on the radio.
Even if you are old enough to remember that year, I suppose that you may have managed to miss those songs if you didn’t listen to the radio much, or perhaps just listened to stations that catered to a different audience, but I digress.
If fans are expecting Hornsby’s new album to sound anything like his material from 1987, they are going to be in for a surprise. Frankly, if you had played these tracks (linked below) to me and not told me who it was, I would have never guessed it was Bruce Hornsby.
If these two tracks are indicative of the rest of the material on Honsby’s new album, Levitate, his comments about it are right on target.
“I guess I’m a bit of a musical proselytizer,” says Hornsby. “I’m always hoping to turn the audience on to more adventurous music and music that’s below the mainstream radar. I know that that may seem too pretentious to the rock and pop world. But for me it’s all just beautiful music, and people seem willing to come along with me on the journey.”
Joining Hornsby for the making of Levitate, we find Eric Clapton making a guest appearance on the track “Space Is The Place,” as well as fiddler Andy Leftwitch, recognized as a veteran member of Ricky Skaggs’ band, who lends his talents to the track entitled “The Black Rats of London.”
Levitate is dedicated to to the memory of Hornsby’s talented nephew R.S. Hornsby, who frequently performed with Bruce as guest guitarist, and who was killed in a car accident six days after recording a memorable solo on “Continents Drift.”
“That’s been, of course, so difficult for our family," notes Hornsby. “But I love the fact that this beautiful, long solo that R.S. played can serve as his last testament. He was a beautiful player; he really had the gift. He played with a lot of soul, a lot of feeling.”
Making a new album is part of a musical career that also includes working with Chicago director Kathleen Marshall on a prospective Broadway musical titled SCKBSTD. He has also composed and recorded several soundtrack projects for filmmaker Spike Lee, most recently writing and recording the score for Kobe Doin’ Work, Lee’s ESPN documentary on Kobe Bryant. Hornsby is also featured onscreen in the new Robin Williams/Bobcat Goldthwait film World’s Greatest Dad. That film features lots of Hornsby music, including the Levitate track “Invisible.”
His many endeavors are a testament to his love for making music. “To me,” says Hornsby, “it’s always just been about broadening my reach and moving into new areas. So it’s a fantastic situation to be able to do that, and to continue to pursue a wide-ranging musical life.”
Listen to two tracks from Bruce Hornsby’s new album, Levitate: