Longtime fans of Bruce Hornsby may well scratch their heads after hearing the opening seconds of lead track/first single "Sticks and Stones" from Big Swing Face, as the traditionally acoustic piano-ba

Longtime fans of Bruce Hornsby may well scratch their heads after hearing the opening seconds of lead track/first single "Sticks and Stones" from Big Swing Face, as the traditionally acoustic piano-based artist has dramatically incorporated heavy techno studio effects into the mix this time out. Second track "Cartoons and Candy" continues the puzzlement, with a stinging blues guitar intro giving way to percussion loops and electric keyboards. But Hornsby's proven instrumental prowess remains intact; so, too, does his melodicism, albeit in the more guitar-oriented format (with assistance here from guest guitarist Steve Kimock, Hornsby's bandmate in Grateful Dead offshoot the Other Ones). But his lyrics, as always, insightfully reflect his Williamsburg, Va., upbringing—and rural black culture influences—and work fine within the souped-up context. On "No Home Training," he even employs 70-year-old family friend Floyd Hill Jr., who co-wrote the tune and contributes an earthy, down-home rap. Throughout, Hornsby proudly displays new musical colors.—JB

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