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7 takeaways from Bruce Hornsby’s Non-Secure Connection

First thoughts from Non-Secure-Connection in the week of its release… here are seven takeaway points from the new record!

New but not unfamiliar

The theme is different and the approach is new, but we’re surely not surprised by recent releases. Listen again to the first record and you’ll hear:

  • Side one, track one (“On the Western Skyline”) is a dulcimer song.
  • Side one, track two (“Every Little Kiss”) opens by quoting Charles Ives’ modern classical piece, “The Alcotts”.
  • “The River Runs Low” is solo Bruce.

Even “La Grive Musicienne” (Messiaen) was on a Bruce Hornsby record six years ago (“Solo Concerts“) and opens “Porn Hour”.

Bruce Hornsby fans have learnt to expect the unexpected

We have conditioned ourselves to not be surprised any more. When Harbor Llights was released without the Range, or Big Swing Face featured “almost no piano”, or a dulcimer record emerged, those along for the ride knew that we were going to enjoy a few left turns, and to expect the unexpected.

And the music press are fully on board, again

Bruce noted the “rapturous” reception to Absolute Zero from the press, and it goes on. “A continued flow of boundless inspiration” (Under the Radar), “Secures his status as one of the most creatively restless and curious artists of his generation.” (Tinnitist). Not just the music magazines, either – the Financial Times weighed in, as ever. Airplay too – BBC Radio 2’s Anita Rani in the UK has been playing My Resolve (“every  level of gorgeous”), as have WNRN.

Lots to learn

Bruce often talks of “inflicting” the modern dissonance on his audience, or that he’s asking a lot of them. But it’s not without reward. Were it not for the more challenging material and due consideration, the works of Messiaen, Schoenberg or Ligeti may have remained undiscovered. Even the more mainstream collaborations on this record – Rob Moose, Jamila Woods and James Mercer – will pay dividends to those willing to put in the learning.

(Incidentally, the reverse of Bruce’s charge is also true – the audience demands much of Bruce and his band. The desire begins with Bruce, but there’s an appetite to hear something new every time, both live and in archived format. That’s a hell of an ask).

Lots for Bruce to learn too

The challenge now is to learn these on solo piano. Bruce has said in the past that “King of the Hill” took two months to learn to his satisfaction – now he has to get to grips with Non-Secure Connection. It’s well underway:

The creative lens of Kathy Hornsby

The ingenuity and craft of Kathy Hornsby continues – this is her sixth credit for artwork or photography, following her work in the liner notes and cover art for The Way It Is, Hot House, Camp Meeting, Levitate and Absolute Zero. Gorgeous.

New insights from new stimuli

On the back of two releases in consecutive years, we look set for the hat-trick. Bruce has noted that he’s already written six songs for the next record, all within a month and a half during lockdown. It’s tentatively set for next year.

As for a direction: Bruce said in 2016 of Rehab Reunion, “I like the funny“. Previously, he spoke of “the sense of place” in his music. Of course, he abandoned neither, but currently he “likes the weird“. It appears to be a clear direction at this point, and we’re there for it… but don’t expect to stand still with him once he gets there.