Nick Hornbuckle- 13 or So review


Nick Hornbuckle 13 or So Ruby’s Slipper Records NickHornbuckle.com

Nick Hornbuckle.

Two words, four syllables.

A banjo, five-strings.

A two finger-style all his own.

Add that up, and you get 13. Or so.

A founding member of John Reischman’s Jaybirds, Vancouver Island’s Hornbuckle has slowly—painfully slowly—built for himself a positive reputation within the bluegrass fold, appearing here and there with select friends, mostly those stellar members of his corvidae flock. His album of several years ago, 12X2 (+/-1), was impressive, an unexpected set that bridged generations of banjo influence into a cohesive, amiable artistic creation. It was a damn fine album.

So is 13 or So. It is very different from its predecessor. This time Hornbuckle has written the dozen tunes, linking each to an important element of his life and journey. It is a brighter album, perhaps because the majority feature a full-band setting.

“Cleo Belle” is one of them. Named for his daughter, and inspired by the local swimming hole, Hornbuckle has crafted a jaunty, unrestrained tune, notes a-tumble. Joined here by Trent Freeman (fiddle), Reischman (mandolin), Darryl Poulsen (guitar), and Patrick Metzger (bass)—all of whom appear on several tracks throughout—Hornbuckle creates a memorable, spritely tune, the joy of which sparks the speakers.

Family experience is woven into additional numbers. His ancestors’ migration west to Oregon inspires the old-timey and slightly dusty “The South Road;” one imagines the wagon train heading into the near-unknown, the echoes of time intertwined within notes.

With a shade of mournfulness, “Fleetwood’s Ford” is heightened by Ivan Rosenberg’s Dobro as well as the strings of notes with which Hornbuckle decorates his melody. With a distinct introduction, “The Crooked Man” laments the passing of previously significant standards held for politicians.

Other songs feature a duo (“Hopping Harvey,” a playful bit of whimsy between Hornbuckle and Reischman) or trio including the title track, explained by Hornbuckle as that age when one realizes the world doesn’t really have you at its center. Freeman’s fiddle (perhaps) gives voice to the mental confusion such a revelation reveals, while Hornbuckle’s repetitive banjo notes provides impetus to continue into adolescence, and beyond.

Another trio piece, “A Farewell (to the Cowgirl with the Pigtails)” is an elegy of sorts for Hornbuckle’s mother. A solo banjo piece, “Chausson de Ruby” imagines a fateful meeting, and so evocative is Hornbuckle’s playing that it all comes to life.

Belying its inspiration, the lively “When the Black Dog Comes Around” closes this impressive vision of modern bluegrass banjo. Multi-faceted, Nick Hornbuckle’s 13 or So is exactly what I needed this autumn, not to put too much significance on tunes that have nothing to do with me: an inspiration to continue through adversity, a remembrance of those who got us started—whomever they were—and an acknowledgement that small details expressively matter.

And maybe my favourite thing found on the internet today…and which makes me think Nick may be closer to my age than I once thought.

2 thoughts on “Nick Hornbuckle- 13 or So review

  1. Hi Don, I once sold a house in Seattle to Nick and his wife. Best, Dru

    On Sun, Dec 8, 2019 at 2:39 PM Fervor Coulee- roots music opinion wrote:

    > Donald Teplyske posted: ” Nick Hornbuckle 13 or So Ruby’s Slipper Records > NickHornbuckle.com Nick Hornbuckle. Two words, four syllables. A banjo, > five-strings. A two finger-style all his own. Add that up, and you get 13. > Or so. A founding member of John Reis” >

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