Josh Hoyer & the Shadowboxers – Living By the Minute (review)

Josh Hoyer and the Shadowboxers –  Living By the Minute (Silver Street) review

Nebraska got soul!

The home of Spam and Kool Aid might seem like a strange place for a great soul band, but Nebraska is where Josh Hoyer & the Shadowboxers call home – and they’ve just put out a fantastic new album, Living By the Minute.  What makes this record refreshing is that they’re not aping a classic style; they’re playing soul music, but it doesn’t sound like it was recorded at Stax or Hi Records, it just sounds real.

Another interesting element is that the instruments are spread out in the stereo mix – giving you the impression that you’re on stage, with the musicians surrounding you.  The key here is that every track has some sort of groove – the band finds it, then lays on it for the entire song.

The disc opens with “Living By the Minute,” which contains a gentle funk rhythm fueled by Hammond organ, wah wah guitar and repetitive chorus – the song starts softly, then grabs and pulls you in, before ending just the way it began.

The band employs quite a wide palette of sounds – “Misfit Children” features sax, a killer trombone solo in the middle, and tasty flute near the end, all played over a James Brown-styled groove.  “Over the City” recalls the darker side of Marvin Gaye, while sneaking in the horn line from “Vehicle” by Ides of March – a clever touch.

The real highlight is “The Man Who Believes His Own Lies.”  From the title, it sounds like the song would be preachy – but it ends up being the catchiest on the album. By the end, the band works up to a frenzy, while Hoyer screams and shouts.

The horn heavy “Let it Out” definitely gives a nod to Otis Redding, featuring a riff similar to “I Can’t Turn You Loose.”  While “The First One” is the kind of pleading ballad Solomon Burke perfected back in the Sixties, complete with a Vibro-effected guitar.

Hoyer has a deep, resonating voice that sometimes reminds of Lou Rawls, especially on the closer, “Don’t Turn Away.”

Josh Hoyer & the Shadowboxers show that they can be influenced by the past, yet still create something fresh and new with Living By the Minute.  It’s also a record that gets better with each listen.   —Tony Peters