On his new boxed set, Intersections: 1985-2005, Bruce Hornsby documents two decades of his songs. Only thing is, most of them sound nothing at all like the versions that were on the radio. Rather than load the box's four CDs with previously released material, Hornsby gives fans a 53-song summary of his career through drastically reworked live tracks, piano-heavy demos, and other stuff from the vaults. "It's not in me to play them straight," he says. "I can't play my songs the way I did in 1989."
Since 1985, when he reached the top of the charts with "The Way It Is" with his band the Range, Hornsby has balanced sociopolitical songwriting ("The Valley Road" is one of the few songs about abortion to hit the Top 40) with genre-jumping dexterity (he's recorded country, classical, and jam-band rock). He also joined the Grateful Dead on tour, wrote songs with Don Henley, and collaborated with jazz giant Ornette Coleman.
Hornsby has both bluegrass and jazz records coming out soon. "I know their language, but I don't speak it well," he laughs. "I'm a lifelong music student." Bonus: Everyone who buys a ticket to his solo show at Playhouse Square tonight gets a free copy of Intersections. "It's a gift," he says. "The box is a reflection of what I'm about now."
Wed., Oct. 11, 8 p.m.