Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers: Bride of the Noisemakers

The latest from Bruce Hornsby's most recent band is a set aimed at those who enjoy great musicians, intricate songwriting, and a good old-fashioned jam.

Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers

Bride of the Noisemakers

Label: 429
US Release Date: 2011-05-02
UK Release Date: 2011-06-07

“Frankly, what I’m looking to do is entertain the band. We’re all grizzled vets of many gigs … Having to play the songs straight is a real prison for me.”

That’s what piano-player/songwriter Bruce Hornsby recently told when asked about playing live, a practice he knows all to well. It’s an exercise he’s become lauded for, and it’s something the musician spends more time doing than anything else, including sitting alone in a dark studio. It’s also what paints his band’s latest offering, Bride of the Noisemakers, a double-disc compilation of some of the best performances his group compiled between 2007 and 2009 while on the road.

Hornsby, himself, has had a curious career. Why in God’s name “jazz” comes up whenever you import his CDs into iTunes is a disservice to both the genre and the musician. He’s made a career out of doing his best to not be lumped into one single category. Sure, there’s a little jazz. But yes, there’s also a little soul. A little bluegrass. Maybe even a little rhythm & blues.

All of those elements combine in full force on Bride of the Noisemakers to provide an end product that’s nothing short of impressive. Forget your preconceived notions, or the fact that there’s a good chance you could mistake one of his songs for something you heard on the Weather Channel. Hornsby is simply a good player. And fortunately for listeners and music fans alike, the band he has assembled around him is positively filled with even better masters of their own particular crafts.

That’s proven with how this collection begins. An inspiring take on “Cyclone” is a fine piece of pop music turned interesting with the way Hornsby’s Noisemakers allow the performance to climax at an uproar of glorious aptitude. Guitarist Doug Derryberry rips through an impressive solo as Sonny Emory’s drums provide a thunderous backdrop that fits perfectly behind the rest of the band’s performance.

And all of that is followed immediately by “Country Doctor” and “Funhouse”, two groovy numbers that promise to keep any listener on his or her toes. The former is a nearly-eight-minute romp that showcases Hornsby’s knack for pop vocals, while the latter swings its way through a dusty bar that seems to be painted in black and white. Both tracks exemplify the high level diversity and (pardon me) range that both the songwriter and his musician friends display consistently throughout all of both discs.

The only real issue with Bride of the Noisemakers is the one problem some may already have with Hornsby to begin with, and that’s his ability to mellow out and vaguely seem redundant at times. Lead single “Shadow Hand” isn’t a bad song by any stretch of the imagination, though its detachment from what are otherwise often smokin’ performances of more intricate songs seems somewhat out of place. Sure, it’s nice to hear the often beautiful sounds of a dulcimer. And yes, a break in the action is needed through any collection of live music. But the performance simply seems boring. It’s a move unnecessary, regardless of how diverse a musician Hornsby is.

Other disappointments come from the second disc’s final track, “Standing on the Moon/Halcyon Days”, a ballad medley that again opts against the fire and chops a lot of the other tracks here provide. It’s no secret that the singer has written his fair share of ballads, but when put up against the quirky, off-time “Tango King” or the dark and funky “Levitate”, the balladry just becomes an annoying bridge to other more interesting and inviting performances.

But those missteps are OK when considered amongst the set as a whole. All told, what separates Bruce Hornsby from most -- if not all -- of the other singers/songwriters/piano-players is the fact that he knows how to make things seem fresh. Hell, even his straight-as-an-arrow take on Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” is entertaining in its own right, if for nothing else because the descent into it is somewhat unexpected. The dude can play, and he knows how to pick people who know how to play equally as well. Bride of the Noisemakers is, if nothing else, a great platform for those elements to shine.

“I don’t want there to be much sucking going on,” Hornsby said in the same article when asked what he was looking for when compiling the recordings that appear on this album. Well, no matter if you agree with the selection (“Talk of the Town” is great, but “Harbor Lights” would have been better), feel he’s a one-trick pony, or “just can’t stand listening to that piano guy play the same thing all the time" (as someone recently told me), at least one thing is for certain: There is no sucking going on here.






A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.


Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.


PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.


'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.


Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.


Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.


Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.


The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.


Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.


Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.


Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.


'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.