Album review: Always in good company, Paul Hornsby finally takes spotlight

Paul Hornsby Red Hot

Like piano-based boogie? Here’s a nifty little album out of left field by a big-deal name in the annals of Southern rock.

Paul Hornsby was a member of the 1960s rhythm and blues band Hour Glass, featuring Duane and Gregg Allman just before they formed The Allman Brothers Band. Later, he joined the Capricorn Records rhythm section, and quickly became the label’s studio manager. His talents both as a player and producer grace several notable albums, most principally the first six by the woefully under-celebrated Marshall Tucker Band. Hornsby’s crystalline piano on those records resembles that of his good friend and compatriot, the Rolling Stones’ Chuck Leavell.

This, Hornsby’s very first solo album, finds him rolling the ivories better than ever on a slate of beloved classics, with a good gathering of his buddies along for the “Red Hot” ride. Naturalness prevails, and Hornsby is in his element no matter the groove.

He’s right at home with the honkin’ sax as he is with Lee Roy Parnell’s slippery slide guitar on the Bourbon Street-enhanced take on Ray Charles’ “Mess Around.” Speaking of slide — one of the top slide men ever, the former Allman Brother Jack Pearson also appears, ripping through the back end of Fats Domino’s rollicking “I’m Ready.” Leavell even shows up there on Hammond B3 for some cool counterpoint to Hornsby’s keys.

Hornsby sings the majority of the songs in pleasing voice, with numerous ladies and gentlemen pumping up the refrains in the background, when appropriate. He’s particularly effective during the sauntering, countrified version of the blues standard “Key To the Highway,” featuring the current Tucker Band’s Chris Hicks on sweet guitar.

The smoky piano showpiece “After Hours” would seem the perfect end to this party, but the be all and end all of songs, “Amazing Grace,” brings the album to a stylish close. Hornsby does not go rote here, an easy trap to fall into. Instead, he plays the melody in stately fashion, alongside friend Tommy Talton — another of the true Southern rock legends—who wanders in gorgeously on dobro.

Perfect joy for the holidays, y’all! Vive le boogie!

-Tom Clarke

  • Paul Hornsby
    ‘Red Hot’
    Website: paulhornsby.com

ABOUT Tom Clarke

Tom Clarke
From pre-war blues to the bluegrass of the Virginia hills, Tom Clarke has a passion for most any kind of deep-rooted American music, and has been writing about it for 25 years. He’s particularly fond of anything from Louisiana, Los Lobos, and the Allman Brothers Band and its ever-growing family tree. Tom’s reviews and articles have appeared in BluesPrint, the King Biscuit Times, Hittin’ The Note, Kudzoo, Blues Revue, Elmore, Blues Music Magazine, and now, Tahoe Onstage. Tom and his wife Karen have raised four daughters in upstate New York. They split their time between the Adirondack Mountains and coastal South Carolina.

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