A record of introspection that rocks and muses.
Describing Rick Hornyak as purely an “Austin heartland rocker” falls short of doing him proper justice. There is a lot of rock on this album, and full-on it is too but what leaves a far more lasting impression is Hornyak’s softer, more melodious side. Here, a slower tempo offers more space for his sensitive treatment of some complex themes.
Growing up in small town Pennsylvania Hornyak learned to play guitar with the help of Metallica and Guns N’ Roses (influences not entirely eradicated). He also began songwriting and performing locally while working in a steel factory. Then something snapped as he realised, “ I lost my 20s there”. Aged 27 he left for a new music home. That turned out to be in Austin where he released an EP and album, ‘Marigold’ with Robert Earl Keen’s band.
The dandelion represents rebirth which is why it appealed as a title. Add in resilience and ‘Dandelion’ blows a way into Hornyak’s life and emotions. He admits he is sensitive, hating the toxic masculinity he had encountered in his younger days. He adores his family and his musical life far removed from steel. He has made some fine contacts. Cindy Cashdollar plays slide guitar, Grammy nominated Ann Marie Harrop is on bass and Scott Matthews on drums, all mixed by Stuart Sullivan who has worked with Willie Nelson and James McMurtry among others.
‘Shades of Grey’ opens with a blast of pounding rock guitar and synthesiser as Hornyak admits how he did not fit into that old life back in Pennsylvania, “Shades of grey don’t live too long/ Going where I know I’m from/ Where no one can see”. Digging deeper into that old life ‘Never Know Why’ tells of his Mrs Robinson moment. Opening with a Tom Petty jangle Hornyak plunges further depths in ‘Devil’s Daughter’ grinding out riffs confessing, “I don’t know how to act and this time I feel so small”.
Perhaps cathartic but certainly more interesting is how he has changed. ’No Need to Pretend’ is an honest reflection where Hornyak faces up to his anxieties. Layered sound and harmonies lighten the mood with a feeling that better times do lie ahead. Further into the muse ‘The Struggle With Destiny’ finds Hornyak “Watching the world go by” to noodling guitar runs recognising that, “We struggle with our own destiny”.
Turning his observations outwards, ‘Continental Queen’ is a touching tribute to Aliya Rosegreen, a much loved member of the local live circuit who died recently. Titled after how she would sneak into the Continental Club aged only 14, “She’s no stranger from all that she’s seen”, the slide guitar, lap steel and accordion ensure all roads lead to Austin.
The two final songs show Hornyak’s settled side. Both love letters to his wife ‘The Other Side’ and ‘Drift Away’ are drenched in warmth and love. All that upheaval was worth it. This is what Hornyak does best. An accomplished songwriter unafraid to confront his doubts and anxieties, Hornyak as singer-songwriter comes across to greater effect than he does the hard rocker.