I’m going to check our Frankie and Jimmy at The Sanctuary later this evening but for the time being, I’m enjoying my second last day of full recovery in my EZ-Boy with my book (‘The Dragon Behind the Glass‘ by Emily Voigt ) and this ‘The Way It Is‘ album by Bruce Hornsby.
This is the soundtrack to my second last year of high school. This and…well, I’ll save that form a coming future post.
Kelly may have had Sting, but I had Bruce.
Reflecting back on these two albums now, she was probably onto the better thing but don’t tell her that.
Bruce is still cool.
There isn’t a second of this album that suggests it’s a debut album (it actually won Bruce the 1986 Grammy Award for Best New Artist). On the contrary, the record sounds like the culmination of a band’s efforts over many years. The group has a distinct sound of its own, often led by Hornsby’s bright piano chords and elastic tenor, with cohesive and evocative arrangements; there is new age music here, as well as jazz and country, and the mixture is presented naturally by musicians who seem to have been playing with each other for some time.
Similarly, the songwriting has its own flavor. Hornsby wrote seven of the nine songs with his brother John Hornsby, and they create their own world, a working-class environment of longing and loneliness set against the background of the Virginia Tidewater area – the album cover displays a sepia-toned photograph of the band set over another photograph of the long Chesapeake Bay Bridge.
The lyrics are lightly poetic and restrained, for the most part. The exception is the title song (written by Bruce alone), which I thought the best “stick it the man” song ever written back in high school, but turns out is way deeper than I could ever have given it credit for. It’s a brave if somewhat clumsily written attack on the heartless right-wing politics of the mid-’80s, as the U.S. suffered through a second Reagan administration determined to roll back civil rights gains. The boldness of the statement and the lovely piano theme more than compensate for the awkward writing, however, making the song one of the album’s most memorable. And that’s saying a lot when the competition includes the engaging ‘Mandolin Rain‘ and the appealingly romantic ‘Every Little Kiss‘ (Hornsby’s other sole writing credit).
Oh, and did you know that that’s Huey Lewis featured on harmonica and vocals on ‘Down the Road Tonight’?
Also, the original release of the album featured an impressionistic photograph on the cover of Bruce Hornsby playing an accordion and was It was originally targeted at the New Age music market and featured slightly different versions of the songs ‘Down the Road Tonight‘ and ‘The River Runs Low‘.
Thankfully, that’s not the way it all played out.