When Bruce Hornsby titled his latest album "Rehab Reunion," he didn't expect anyone to think it was autobiographical.
Well, guess what...
"Yeah, I've gotten a few messages from people saying, 'Wow, were you in rehab?'" Hornsby, 61, says with a laugh over the phone line. "And I think to myself, 'Have you listened to the song?'" The lyrics were actually written by Hornsby's childhood friend, Chip deMatteo -- also his partner in the musical "SCKBSTD" -- and hardly drew from either man's life.
"They're pretty frivolous," Hornsby says. "It's not a serious song. It's me trying to be (country singer) John Anderson, basically. I've known him forever; When 'The Way It Is' hit No. 1 30 years ago, he was the first call I got going, 'Hey, Mr. No. 1!' So if you listen to it, no, it's not a song about being in rehab. It's not serious."
Hornsby is no stranger to humor in his music, of course, but as he celebrates the 30th anniversary of his recording career he can also reflect on some serious achievements.
Besides his own 13 solo albums -- and other hits like "The Valley Road" -- Hornsby has also won three Grammy Awards (including Best New Artist in 1986) and has been part of the Grateful Dead, during the early 90s and for last year's Fare The Well Shows. He collaborates reguarly with Ricky Skaggs and writes music for Spike Lee films, and he's played on and/or co-written songs for Don Henley ("The End of the Innocence"), Huey Lewis & the News ("Jacob's Ladder"), Bob Seger, Bob Dylan, Bonnnie Raitt and many others.
Hornsby happilly calls it a "crazy life," and he's enjoyed its various permutations during thep ast three decades.
"The craziest part is we came out and we had all these hits, so we were sort of typecast as this Top 40 group by people who don't really know what they're commenting on," explains Hornsby, who studied music in pretigious programs at the Berklee College of Music in Boston and the Uiversity of Miami." "The records were hardly formulaic Top 50 records with all the soloing on them and the subject matter and the instrumentation. It was pretty sophisticated for 'hit' records."
Hornsby finds the spirit of "Rehab Reunion," which came out June 17, similar to his triple-platinum 1986 debut. The two share a rootsy quality, but the irony is that while "The Way It Is" showcased Hornsby's piano virtuosity, "Rehab Reunion" is completely without his signature instrument, substituting dulcimer and even including a rewarked, folky version of "The Valley Road."
"It was unwitting; I wasn't trying to do that, but I feel like those two (albums) are kindred spirits in that they're coming from sort of a folkish place," Hornsby says, adding that dulcimer "has become this very sort of secondary but very important part of what we do with my band. My music on the piano, in my finessence, gets more chromatic and astringent and dissonant. But the dulcimer, becuase it's so limited, it forces you to write simple music, and that's never a bad thing.
"So I love where the dulcimer takes me on a writing level, and we just kept writing these songs. This record was crying out to be made. Here was where the creativityw as happening and manifesting itself -- from the dulcimer. It's different than what I'm known for, maybe, but his was the time for me to follow that path and explore this music, and I really love it."
Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers
8 p.m. Thursday, June 30.
The Power Center, 121 Fletcher St., Ann Arbor.
Tickets are $20-55.
Call 734-763-3333 or visit a2sf.org/events
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