Review: Bruce Hornsby – Big Swing Face by John Beaudin

008_big_swing_faceBruce Hornsby – Big Swing Face


June 1, 2004 – Here’s an album that invites envy. A project that tells it like it is and that represents a musician not keeping his eye on the industry but on his own adventurous vision. In 1993 when I first met Bruce Hornsby he told me in no uncertain terms that he had no time for “the posers” in the music industry – the wanna-be musicians whose “whole trip is based on a pose.” Before Christmas last years he said “virtuosity has never been part of what Pop or even Rock music was about.” ‘Big Swing Face’ will never make it in the top ten. It will not be on high rotation on MTV but for the ones who love to mix up old formulas and expand the range – so to speak, this is for you. Quiet simply if pop’s a yawner for you then buy this album.

‘ Big Swing Face,’ like its predecessors, serves up a reinvented Hornsby – a braver musician than the time before. The album has almost no piano – interesting considering his trademark chops on hits like ‘The Way It Is’ or the bouncy jazzy ‘Talk of the Town’. Hornsby goes for a Bluesy funk feel on this one and it’s really a lot of fun.

The first single ‘Sticks and Stones’ about name calling that sticks to the bone is as catchy as anything he’s done before but it’s fuzzy-keys sound doesn’t fit in any particular box. I know radio programmers, they’ll be scared off by this one. The haunted house tale ‘The Chill’ is trademark Hornsby catchy harmonized chorus with a hint of mystery. ‘This Too Shall Pass,’ while having a electronica drumbeat, revisits that familiar Hornsby melancholy feel with an underbelly of optimism. The sing-a-long playful ‘Take Out the Trash’ again mixes the old with the new, it’s bluesy with very modern drum loops. ‘The Good Life’ is a tale of retail therapy “I don’t need this but it’s so cheap visions of a bargain in my sleep” it’s as if he’s saying “the things we do to keep smiling!” My only complaint about ‘Big Swing Face’ is it’s length – the whole album is only forty six minutes long. Bruce Hornsby built this album by cutting the fat – sure he tore down the house but he did recycle just enough. He’s using new toys, having more fun and it suits him fine. I can’t wait to hear what he does next. – by John Beaudin

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