Bruce Hornsby and Railroad Earth

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Bruce Hornsby is one of my all time favorite artists and his band, the Noisemakers are rocking. We caught them in Portsmouth at the amphitheater along the Elizabeth River. This summer, Bruce has been touring with Railroad Earth, the groovy acoustic, bluegrass Americana band. I love that both bands are open to joining forces with other artists. Collaboration can be a beautiful thing.

The show on Aug. 11 was the final night of the Noise of the Earth tour. RRE opened. I don’t know their song catalog that well but it was a more laid back set than we’ve usually heard from them. We will see them another time or two this year at festivals.

Bruce and the Noisemakers played an All Request set list. There was a song or two I didn’t know well but it did include some of my faves. The opener was a hot White Wheeled Limousine into Long Black Veil.

His Grateful Dead influences came out with He’s Gone. They also played one, I think called Cyclone, written by Bruce and Robert Hunter.  Drummer Sonny Emory’s son, Nick, was traveling with the band after singing with them the night before in Atlanta. Bruce had him sing this and another song in this show.  Nick looked about 17 and has a great voice. After his first song, Sonny stood up in a proud dad salute. Sweet! I’m sure we’ll be hearing more from Nick.

I love that Bruce often includes young artists in his shows. I’ve seen this many times. Someone’s kid, nephew, whatever. He seems like a great mentor to these young musicians.

Throughout the set, guys from Railroad Earth joined in. Todd Scheaffer played and sang the part recorded by Sting on Halcyon Days. But the best was Mandolin Rain with three mandolins! Doug Derryberry is usually on guitar and mandolin for the Noisemakers. He was joined by John Skehand and Andy Goessling from RRE for a jammy Mandolin Rain.

Talk of the Town was interesting and Bruce talked about the story behind the song. Greg says it’s the first time we’ve heard Bruce play it and we were practically in the town that inspired it! He even played something from the musical he wrote, SCKBSTRD.

Bruce’s biggest hit was The Way it Is and he always plays it differently, which is great! This one was pretty much rocked up. Some folks just know this one Bruce song, recorded in the 80s with The Range. The Noisemakers are a different band, consisting of  bassist J.V. Collier, organist  JT Thomas, Bobby Read on sax and flute, Doug Derryberry on guitar and mandolin and drummer Sonny Emory. They’ve got a great vibe and do a great job of moving from rock, dead to bluegrass, jazz and classical. Whatever Bruce throws in, they are right there with him.

The dulcimer portion of the program included Valley Road and Living the Good Life. Bruce talked about his first dulcimer set. He said it was a set a Bonnaroo with just him and the dulcimer. “I played everything I knew and it lasted about 45 minutes,” he said. Sonny Emory joins him on the washboard along with John Skehand and Tim Carbone on fiddle. Way cool!

Jacob’s Ladder was one of the few accordion songs (more accordion!) and it meshed into a hot, hot Put a Spell on You. The show wrapped up with a great Cruise Control and we didn’t want it to end!

Bruce has a new bluegrass album, Cluck Ol’ Hen, out with Ricky Scaggs. It’s their second album together. I don’t have this new one yet but hope to get it soon.

We’ve stayed in old towne Portsmouth twice now for shows. This one was just a few blocks, an easy walk. Last year, we went to Harbor Fest in Norfolk. That was a few blocks to the river and then we took a ferry across to Norfolk. Along the Elizabeth River you see all sorts of ship building and repair to docks with cruise-type boats as well as military crafts.