Bruce Hornsby long ago left behind the heartland rock that made his name in the mid-'80s, choosing to explore many long, winding roads over the course of the next 25 years. The Solo Concerts
, a 2014 double-disc compendium of highlights from an American tour that ran throughout the course of 2012 and 2013, illustrates just where his journeys took him. Hornsby doesn't ignore songs that brought him fame -- there's no "The Way It Is" but "Mandolin Rain" is given a prominent spot -- but he weighs them equally with jazz, contemporary classical pieces, boogie woogie, and excerpts from his own film work. Far from seeming like a mess, the willful eclecticism of The Solo Concerts
is an asset, largely because Hornsby's execution encompasses all of these influences; a piece may be anchored in a certain style but he finds ways to expand, stretch, and invert the composition so the focus becomes his style, not the song. Similarly, he's elastic as a vocalist -- he gives "The Valley Road" a welcome elongated reading that stands in direct contrast to the 1988 hit original -- and that only underscores how Hornsby has settled into his style. He's elaborate but never fussy, sophisticated without succumbing to pretension, and this, almost more than his live records with the Noise Makers
, illustrates his full range and idiosyncratic appeal.