Saturday, April 26, 2014

Josh Hoyer and the Shadowboxers EponymouslyTitled CD

Unfamiliar with Lincoln Nebraska’s Josh Hoyer and the Shadowboxers, their self-titled and self-produced recording left a definite impression from the first note. Led by vocalist, keyboardist and baritone saxophonist Hoyer, the band includes Benny Kushner on guitar and vocals, Justin G. Jones on drums, latin percussion and vocals, Brian Morrow on bass and vocals, Tommy Van Der Berg on trombone and Mike Dee on tenor sax with a trio of backing vocalists for a collection of soul and funk with some blues accents.

Hoyer himself is a big voiced soulful singer who might be compared to New Orleans blues-eyed soul blues boss, Luther Kent. He sings powerfully with a similar authority to Kent, although the program here are all his originals. Hoyer and the Shadowboxers are a terrific band evident from the opening Shadowboxer with the band hitting a deep groove and coming off like a contemporary New Orleans funk band. The horns (with trumpeter Russell Zimmer added on this track) come off as tight and full of punch while the rhythm section gets a deep soulful groove down.

Hoyer has cast a marvelous web with his use of overdubbing allow him to play some greasy organ and add bottom to the horns with his baritone sax while crafting the vocals (and backing vocals) into driving, stone solid soulful performances. The crisply played Close Your Eyes has a more mellow feel to it with its gritty lyrics about people scrambling to try to find what they are looking for. His horn arrangements frame the vocals and he even takes a gutty baritone break before some bluesy guitar runs from Kushner. Illusion gets back to the funk with its topical message about many everyday things being an illusion and things not being what they seem and living in strange times, before Van Der Berg’s strong trombone solo.

The remainder of the eight tracks are equally performed strongly. Its a varied set of performances that show influences from Memphis, Chicago (think Tyrone Davis) and New Orleans, but put together for this very impressive release. Josh Hoyer is a first-rate vocalist and the Shadowboxers are soulful and funky. Based on their terrific release, I can see them performing much more often outside of their Lincoln, Nebraska base.

I received my review copy from a publicist. You might check out their website,, for more information. Here is a video of them in performance.

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