JUN 30 | 7:30 PM
Bruce Hornsby (“The Way It Is,” “Mandolin Rain,” “The Valley Road”) mines his vast catalog performing beloved songs alongside tracks from his latest album, ‘Flicted (2022). The evening begins with unforgettable performances by Shawn Colvin and CARM.
BRUCE HORNSBY AND THE NOISEMAKERS
By mid-March 2020, Bruce Hornsby, in that now historical year, had completed a brief tour of five concerts. “Then all of a sudden, wham!” Hornsby remembers, “Everything shut down.” With Non-Secure Connection set to be released in the summer, Hornsby began promoting his latest album. “So that was fine,” he says, following with an innocent refrain that would become spooky that spring among active musicians globally: “But our tours got postponed or cancelled.”
’Flicted (2022), the new album Hornsby then began to create, marks the conclusion of what Hornsby calls a trilogy—inaugurated with the lauded Absolute Zero (2019)—in which the native and longtime resident of Williamsburg, VA intermingles his diverse musical passions, recording a world of vibrant sound and text that is all Hornsby’s own.
The 12 songs that comprise ’Flicted take their starting points from soundtrack scoring—the visuals-linked area of music composition that has a distinguished history. Inexorably at home, Hornsby investigated the “cues” he wrote earlier for director Spike Lee, who Hornsby has worked with since 1990. These abbreviated instrumental score passages sparked song creation on his two previous albums.
“I was stuck in my house,” Hornsby says, “so I gathered up some cues I hadn’t used on Absolute Zero and Non-Secure Connection.” Additionally, he closely considered a riff he had asked an Absolute Zero collaborator—Blake Mills, an LA songwriter-producer and, as Hornsby describes him, “sprung-from-Zeus guitarist”—to record. “Blake gave me,” Hornsby says, “about a minute-and-a-half of this little thing.” For the final installment of his trilogy, Hornsby was off to the races.
And yet, the stylistic choices on ’Flicted were less determined by European and American 20th-century modern classical traditions than by the fleet, ear-bud zings and danceable grooves of the 21st-century; this is a Hornsby album informed by the lucid, atonal challenges and serialist, dissonant flows of its two predecessors, but significantly more by today’s pop music. Produced by Tony Berg, who adds his sense of 1960s Los Angeles studio rock to the mix, and Hornsby himself, the broad impression ’Flicted builds is not divorced from the formally advanced electro-pop of a heavily streamed Taylor Swift-Zayn Malik duet.
The contributions on these songs made by yMusic, the Brooklyn Chamber sextet co-founded by violinist Rob Moose, heightens the command of energy, substance, and especially rhythm. “James Brown,” Hornsby says, citing the instrumental and professional rigor famously and mercilessly enforced in bands by one of the surest geniuses of any music anywhere, “would not fire yMusic.” This is modern sound, not as voiced by Silicon Valley’s lushest tech, but rather the blood and flesh and heart of top-flight, in- studio playing immemorial.
Hornsby casts ’Flicted, as he did the new album’s two predecessors—with the incisiveness Quincy Jones exercised on his own solo albums—always recorded with various singers, musicians, and other creative and technical collaborators.
Other singers on ’Flicted include Ezra Koenig, of New York’s Vampire Weekend; Danielle Haim, lead singer of LA pop-rockers Haim; Ethan Gruska, the Hollywood artist, composer, producer, and member of several West coast indie bands; and Z. Berg, formerly of the LA band The Like.
Throughout his long career, Hornsby’s engaging tenor has been at the forefront of his music, starting with his international hit “The Way It Is,” whose romantic Steinway ecstasies the late rapper Tupac Shakur sampled on his track “Changes.” Without employing the idiosyncrasies of Bob Dylan or Neil Young, it travels its own singer/songwriter way, elevating ruminations on Appalachian cultures or addressing urban literary and scientific research with an everyday, unruffled ease.
Biography provided by artist management.
Shawn Colvin won her first Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album with her debut album, Steady On (1989). She has been a mainstay of the singer/songwriter genre ever since, releasing 13 superlative albums and establishing herself as one of America’s most revered live performers. Her songs are slow-release works of craft and catharsis that become treasured, lifetime companions for their listeners. Colvin triumphed at the 1998 Grammy Awards, winning both Record and Song of the Year for “Sunny Came Home.”
Colvin was recognized for her career accomplishments when she was honored with the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Trailblazer Award by the Americana Music Association. Bonnie Raitt, presenting the award, said that Colvin was, “simply one of the best singers I’ve ever heard—and a truly gifted and deep songwriter and guitarist.”
In Sept. 2019, to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Steady On, Colvin released a newly-recorded solo-acoustic version. The Steady On (30th Anniversary Acoustic Edition) strips each song to the core, placing Colvin’s songwriting masterclass on full display.
Colvin was recently inducted into the 2019 Austin City Limits Hall of Fame alongside legendary artists Lyle Lovett and Buddy Guy. In a moving induction speech, Jackson Browne extolled, “Not many writers are able to do what Shawn does. It’s a very special way of relating what really matters. It takes an original to get our attention. Shawn is utterly original in her singing, and original in what she speaks about in her songs.”
Biography provided by artist management.
CARM is the debut self-titled album of multi-instrumentalist, producer, and arranger CJ Camerieri. Whether it’s playing the iconic piccolo trumpet solo on Paul Simon’s “The Boxer,” anthemic horn parts on songs like The National’s “Fake Empire,” Sufjan Stevens’ “Chicago,” or Bon Iver’s “For Emma, Forever Ago;” performing with his contemporary classical ensemble yMusic; or recording lush beds of French horns for artists from John Legend to The Tallest Man on Earth, you have very likely heard Camerieri play. He is the musician that musicians want to play with, and that is further evidenced by the cast on his debut.
The music of CARM features the trumpet and French horn in roles typically reserved for drums, guitars, and voices, while also seeking to escape the genre categorizations normally reserved for music featuring an instrumentalist as bandleader. It is not jazz or classical music, nor is it a soundtrack to a larger narrative. This is contemporary popular music that features a sound normally used as a background color and texture as the unabashed lead voice.
According to Camerieri, “CARM started with the question: ‘What kind of record would my trumpet-playing heroes from the past make today?’ I believe they would want to work with the best producers, beat makers, song-writers, and singers to create new, truly culturally relevant music, and that’s what I sought to do with this project.” The record was produced in Minneapolis by Ryan Olson (Gayngs, Polica, Lizzo) and features collaborations with Sufjan Stevens, Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), Yo La Tengo, Shara Nova (My Brightest Diamond), Mouse on Mars, Jake Luppen (Hippo Campus), and many others. It is a completely unique sound that additionally serves as a survey of the collaborations that have come to define the artist’s career thus far.
Diverse interests have characterized Camerieri’s musical life. He initially aspired to become a jazz player, then attended Julliard, a classical institution, and studied arranging after graduation. Yet there was one underlying element that connected these pursuits: “Looking back, I was continually seeking a musical outlet that could combine all these disparate things in a way that also featured a level of virtuosity on the instrument. My first job with Sufjan [Stevens] was what set me on that path. He encouraged me to play with pedals, to learn French horn. I played a lot of keyboard, I helped him craft horn arrangements, and it opened up a whole new world for me to experiment and explore.”
The album was conceived by surveying the contemporary music scene and identifying a type of disconnect. Turning inward, he found answers to his musical restlessness in an unlikely source: horns. “I found the shortage of popular music for my instrument surprising when there’s so much music being made.” Eventually Camerieri had enough material to take the next steps. “I spent months experimenting with writing songs centered on the horn as the lead voice, and then traveled to Minneapolis to work with Ryan [Olson], who has always struck me as the nexus of great creative music made in the Midwest. I arrived a few days early and had numerous musical chats with Justin [Vernon] and Trever [Hagen] about what the record could look like. They encouraged me to ignore the music I had written and embrace Ryan’s process. After one night of writing together, both Ryan and I understood exactly what this record would be.”
The album begins with an orchestral brass choir of French horns, which quickly gives way to a piano sample of Francis and the Lights, as Stevens and Luppen combine voices over a lush bed of horns to sing “Song of Trouble.” The album bookends with the same piano sample used as a springboard to a beautiful and iconic lyric by Vernon in the closing track “Land.” Between these two generation-defining artists we have the upward sweeping melodies in “Soft Night,” fanfares reminiscent of Ennio Morricone in “Nowhere,” and the uncompromisingly original sound of Georgia Hubley and Ira Kaplan of Yo La Tengo in “Already Gone.” Two dark and mysterious journeys in “After Hours” and “Invisible Walls” give way to the virtuoso voice of Nova, who the artist stood side-by-side with in his first Sufjan Stevens tour over a decade ago. “Slantwise” and “Scarcely Out” take us back down a more experimental path before the strings from yMusic members Rob Moose and Gabriel Cabezas bring us back to the piano sample that started the record. Given the oversaturated contemporary music market that often recycles well- trodden sounds, CARM offers a respite for those seeking an original voice.
Biography provided by artist management.
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SPECIAL THANKS TO
Dan and Gayle D’Aniello,
Wolf Trap 2022 Season Underwriters