Bruce Hornsby, the iconic ’80s middle-of-the-road hitmaker, has had a long and varied career. He’s worked extensively with the Grateful Dead. He’s been sampled by 2Pac. And now he’s entered the Bon Iver orbit. Hornsby, a big influence on Justin Vernon, has performed at Vernon’s Eaux Claires festival and worked with the man a few times. And later this week, Hornsby will release Absolute Zero, a new album that features contributions from Vernon, as well as associated acts like yMusic, the Staves, and Sean Carey.
We’ve already heard “Cast-Off,” the Justin Vernon collaboration that Hornsby released as a single. And now, with the release of Absolute Zero just a few days away, we get to hear the other big Vernon collab from the album — as well as the entire rest of the LP. The Absolute Zero track “Meds” is an expansive six-and-a-half minute meditation on aging and loneliness, and it features vocals from Vernon and the singer-songwriter Blake Mills. In the song, you can hear how Hornsby’s lush textures influenced the music that Vernon has made this decade, and you can also hear the ways in which Vernon has reflected that influence back on Hornsby.
The whole album is warm and playful and exploratory, and it does interesting things with jazz and prog textures. It’s a rich work form a legacy artist who doesn’t really have to prove anything to anyone. You can hear “Meds,” as well as the rest of Absolute Zero, at NPR.
Absolute Zero is out 4/12.