It’s always tough on the kids of famous parents. Your entire life is spent in both the limelight and someone’s shadow. No matter what you do, the comparisons never stop. Even after you’re grown and working on your own, there’s always somebody who remembers your famous parent and wants to point out the parallel or contradictory aspects of your careers.
It’s only human nature. What are you going to do?
So, let’s get it out of the way early. Michael Hornbuckle and his brother Brian who plays bass, are the sons of Bobby Hornbuckle, a well-known and well-loved Denver bluesman. I must confess that it has been many years since I was last in the Mile High City and have very little working knowledge of their blues scene, but I know that even in the largest cities, the blues community is tightly knit and most people know each other.
We are our own small town, and Michael has been a part of that since he was very young – first as a drummer in his father’s band, later the guitarist who became the leader after his father passed away.
That’s a lot of responsibility for a young man, and let’s face it, living the life of a blues musician is rarely easy. Hornbuckle has faced innumerable challenges along the way and he has channeled them into his strong blues-rock blend. His latest album, SOUL REPO, recently arrived in my inbox and I’ve enjoyed sampling his work. His guitar work is solid and his expressive voice is easy on the ears as well. I haven’t yet gotten a breakdown of his musicians or songwriting credits, but will update this review as soon as they are made available to me.
The opening song on the eleven song album is Sweat, a very solid rock blues number with some plaintive harp laid over a funky beat. This is good opening, it shows a hard-working band that knows how to give the audience what it wants.
Hornbuckle immediately slows things down a little bit but keeps the intensity up with Baby Rock. The guitar is in control and I really like the way the background vocals are mixed. The guitar lead takes off and the pyrotechnics are a lot of fun.
The third song is Me & Melody, and the guitar work has a crunchy edge to it, but the vocals are sweet – almost a California cool sound. I really like the way Hornbuckle and Company are able to adapt so many styles into their own mode of blues. I’m only a few songs into the album and I can’t wait to catch them doing a live set sometime. I can only imagine that they are a real audience pleasing group.
The band gets very funky with One Night. When you listen to the way he blends the lyrics with the harder edge of the music, these darker tones make them sound like a very dangerous band. This is the kind of band that doesn’t want to stay in one style – they want to blend different styles into their approach and that means anything can happen within a song. One of the lyrics in this song is, “Anything is possible when it comes to you and me,” and that could very well be the motto of this band.
The tempo is brought way down for Risin’ Sun, which has that late night grab your lover tighter on the dance floor feel to it. The drums are persistent but slightly muted and the guitar plays sparse notes and Hornbuckle’s vocals carries the song.
Hornbuckle keeps the tempo slow for Candle For Mary, it’s a song to exorcise intense pain. The build up is quite nice with its slightly distorted vocals increasing in intensity within the first minute or so of the song. The guitar adds punctuation of crying over the lyrics of lighting “a candle for the fallen one.” Very powerful song.
The mood shifts with a live rendition of Soul Repo. The band reverts back to its hard driving approach and mixes solid percussion with a Hammond B providing the spice. Hornbuckle’s voice is more of a growl and you can feel the band is really pushing itself. It’s relatively short at three-and-a-half minutes but very intense.
The next number, Hit Me Up, features Lionel Young and has a real old school feel to it with light guitar and a harp added to the mix. It has a real country blues feel to it and again underscores the band’s versatility. Wishin’ Well is another song with an old school feel to it though it skews more towards the rock side despite the harp licks. These two songs go together very well.
Angel starts out with a little piano and a slow tempo. The song is about lost love and trying to recover – the stuff of great blues songs. Hornbuckle softens his voice and that gives the song a more ethereal feel. He’s going for more of a soul sound with this song.
Hornbuckle closes out the album with one more live song, Back Seat Blues. This is a good rolling song with a boogie woogie sound – a fun tune that will end up on Time For The Blues and I imagine a number of other blues shows as well. It’s good.
SOUL REPO is a lot of fun – a good mix of blues, rock, and soul that is bound to have songs on it to please just about everyone. I like the band’s energy and really hope to catch them live soon. If you are interested in checking them out to see where they will be playing, or to purchase the album, visit their website at http://www.hornbucklemusic.com/.
I definitely think it’ll be worth your while.