Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal – Natural Born Hustler
Color Red – 2021
10 tracks; 43 minutes
I have been a fan of this Nebraska-based soul band since their debut CD in 2013, a disc that earned them a nomination for New Artist Debut Album at the 2014 Blues Blast Awards. Josh wrote all the material and handles lead vocals and keyboards, Blake DeForest is on trumpet, Benjie Kushner guitar, Mike Keeling bass and Harrison Eldorado drums; additional musicians involved are Larell Ware who is behind the drum kit on four tracks, trombonists Luke Annis and Tommy Van Den Berg who play on eight and two tracks respectively, Carrie Beth Stickrod and Ally Peeler who add B/V’s to two tracks and Marina Kushner who provides strings on one cut.
Opener “Hustler” has elements of funk from Benjie’s wah-wah wash and horns that evoke Tex-Mex borders, Josh vaunting his credentials as a tough survivor in hard times. “Whisper” is a ballad with a lilting refrain beefed up by the horns on the chorus and a vocal that gets stronger and stronger as the track develops. Backing vocals feature behind Josh’s lead on the next two songs: driven by Josh’s insistent piano “Take Your Time” is classic soul, a song that could have been sung by Al Green back in the day; “Changing” builds from a gentle start to a catchy number with the drums well up in the mix, a song in which Josh sets out his philosophy on life: “Changing is the hardest thing that you will ever learn.” We then return to the funky side of things with “Sunday Lies” which has a great bass line underpinning trash-can drums and wah-wah guitar, the horns only making an appearance half way through.
The whole band really gels on “The Night”, trumpet and guitar both featured on the outro and Josh in full vocal flight. “Take My Chances” is a slightly longer cut and has another strong bass line over which the horns riff while Josh describes his attitude to life, not caring “how the dice will fall”. Strings are added to “Automatic” which risks falling into ‘crooner’ territory though the trumpet playing is sublime before a short and funky “Automatic” gets things moving again. The album closes with “Ring The Bells” which successfully combines a Memphis soul groove with gospel overtones in the uplifting lyrics.
Josh Hoyer has the sort of voice that is ideally suited to soul and Rn’B. While Natural Born Hustler possibly lacks the killer song that graced earlier albums, it is a solid piece of work with no real weaknesses, so if blue-eyed soul is your interest, check this one out.