Sweet Inspiration

The Hollisters

Hightone Records, 2000


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


As much as I can appreciate country music and I do enjoy the work of many artists in the genre, I happen to like my country a little bit goofy. I don't mean a la Ray Stevens (though his "Everything Is Beautiful" is an outstanding track), but more of a country-fried pop with a sardonic sense of humor about it. I think that's what led me to fall in love with The Bottle Rockets - and what's led me to now trip over my own tongue to find words of praise about The Hollisters.

Their latest disc Sweet Inspiration is more country than pop/rock, and that's fine. But there's a pleasant back-handed approach to the music that is endearing to me - almost as if vocalist/guitarist Mike Barfield and crew are forcing themselves to not take themselves too seriously. Thank God for that.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The band - Barfield, guitarist Eric Danheim, bassist/vocalist Denny "Cletus" Blakely and drummer Kevin "Snit" Fitzpatrick - have a nice, laid-back approach to their music that almost obscures the fact that they're dedicated to their craft. Cuts like "Fishin' Man," "Love Rustler" and "Drinking For Two" all make sure to keep a light-hearted air to the music. Barfield often sounds like he could be a dead ringer for a younger Johnny Cash, especially on tracks like "Holes In The Road (Dumptruck)," arguably one of the best songs on the disc.

But Sweet Inspiration would probably fall flat if there weren't some more middle-of-the-road offerings to balance the fun. This is where tracks like "The Last Picture Show," "Walk 'Em Off," "Little Ole You" and the title track come into play - and they do not disappoint in the least.

What is special about this disc is that there's something for almost everyone to appreciate within these 13 songs. There are more country-oriented songs for the purists, and there are tracks that could well turn sworn haters of "yee-haw" music into listeners who want to learn more. The Hollisters have been blessed with a special gift in their music; here's hoping they are given the opportunity and the audiences to share it.

I'm hesitant in a way to draw comparisons between The Hollisters and The Bottle Rockets, for the simple reason that I don't want to imply there's been any liberal borrowing of ideas musically. Stylistically, their songwriting is in the same camp, but these two bands have their own unique identities. All either band - especially one like The Hollisters, who haven't had the benefit of being on a major label in their career - ask for is a chance from the listening public. My challenge: give 'em a chance. I'll bet you'll soon be ordering their other disc online.

Sweet Inspiration is a pleasant disc that begs for more than one listen - and you'll be happy to oblige that request.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2000 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Hightone Records, and is used for informational purposes only.