Song Premiere: “Illusion” by Josh Hoyer and the Shadowboxers

from album cover; photo by Chip Duden



Before you press play, consider the position you'll take when listening to Josh Hoyer and the Shadowboxers, Lincoln's center of soul, which releases its debut album on Friday at The Bourbon.

Hoyer says his music should help you conquer your day. By listening, you're saying, "I’m not going to be a victim to the economy or certain laws or people that are wealthy making it harder for poor people to get through and have a productive life."

"A lot of soul music that I like, that’s how it makes me feel," Hoyer says. "When I listen to Curtis Mayfield or James Brown or Otis Redding, there’s a real punch to it."

The shadowboxer, in essence, captures the feeling Hoyer wants to express. A lot of what we're fighting, he says, are shadows: self-doubt, guilt, self-esteem or the emotional weight of having to pay bills or insurance. 

The debut album's third track of eight, "Illusion," fights the shadows of politics. "Whether donkeys or elephants," Hoyer sings, "they're all in bed with the lobbyists."

from album artwork

The song is one of three tracks produced by BZZZ at Silver Street Sound. Hoyer says those three were chosen because he sought a more studio- and pop-oriented vibe for them. The remaining five tracks of the album — including three that were also featured on the band's first EP — were recorded by Charlie Johnson at Fuse Recording because Hoyer wanted a more live sound with fewer overdubs for them.

When asked what he hopes the album will bring his band, where he hopes it will be six months down the road, Hoyer said, "I’m 37. I’ve got two kids, a wife, a mortgage, a job. I do this out of a love for music, and I don’t really have any false hopes of being a world-traveling musician or anything like that. But I believe in this band, and these songs I think are strong."

Although it's not "world-traveling," Hoyer and the Shadowboxers do have an opportunity to travel halfway across the country in just more than a week. Having won the Nebraska Blues Challenge put on by the Blues Society of Omaha, Hoyer and crew will represent our state at the Memphis International Blues Challenge, January 21-25. Along the way, the band will play sets in Kansas City at Knuckleheads, St. Louis at B.B.’s, and Springfield, Ill., at The Alamo.

As for the band's core audience in Lincoln, Hoyer says, "We’ve made some connections with the crowd. I just want them to have [the music] and listen to it. Hopefully, some of the songs make a difference in some people’s lives. The kind of music that I wanted to write is something that inspires people to go out and do what they do each and every day."

Friday's album release concert at The Bourbon starts at 9 p.m. Funk Trek, A Ferocious Jungle Cat and DJ Relic will open the show.

"Illusion" is no longer available for streaming. Find the album here.

album credits

Josh Hoyer — vocals, organ, Rhodes, piano and baritone sax
Benny Kushner — guitar and vocals
Justin G. Jones — drums, Latin percussion and vocals
Brian Morrow — bass and vocals
Tommy Van Den Berg — trombone
Mike Dee — tenor sax
Hanna Bendler — vocals
Kim Moser — vocals
Megan Spain — vocals
also featuring Russell Zimmer on trumpet

Michael Todd is Hear Nebraska's managing editor. He's not bitter about someone still borrowing his Josh Hoyer 45. Reach him at