Bruce Hornsby and the Range made a spectacular musical debut. 'The Way It Is' is a poignant, soulful, and powerful album with a flawless tracklist, beautiful melodies, feel-good rock numbers, phenomenal ballads, and socially conscious tunes such as the title track. There isn't a minute of 'The Way It Is' that suggests it's a debut album. The album was an instant classic, one of the most complete and cherished recordings of the 1980s that went on to win the 1986 Grammy Award for Best New Artist. Not since Elton John and Billy Joel came along, had a piano player made such a major impact on the pop/rock music scene.
Perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise that the music is so accomplished, Hornsby was already a consummate musician and songwriter when he made it. The record presented a unique, fresh sound, distinguished by Hornsby's remarkable, whimsical piano playing. 'The Way It Is' was unlike anything else on the radio at the time, a combination of pop, rock, folk, jazz, classical, bluegrass and country music. The band incorporates a wide range of instruments in the songs to support this mix - mandolin, guitar, violin, piano, and even harmonica. The songwriting is fantastic, Hornsby paints vivid portraits of life in the mountain ranges, winding rivers, jagged coasts, towering forests, and stretching farmlands of his beloved Virginia. He maintains a hopeful outlook for love and happiness even during tough times both emotionally and economically.
Fellow musician Huey Lewis is featured on the album, lending his harmonica and vocal talents to the track, 'Down the Road Tonight'. Lewis also helped produce the song, along with the track, 'The Long Race' and 'The River Runs Low'.