How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Press play on Never Odd Or Even and you're suddenly tuned into a foreign radio broadcast, mechanized drums and wailing voices sparring with hot wax keyboards. On his solo debut, String Cheese Incident ivory tickler Hollingsworth trots out his considerable chops, but more importantly his compositional skills. His band is a who's who of Boulder, Colorado players, including Motet drummer Dave Watts. "The Crusade" kicks it off with a bumping soul jazz workout, a vibe that resurfaces several times. Joshua Redman (sax) guests on this cut and a very different (and stronger) version of SCI fave "!Bam!" and blows with the silky slide of early David Sanborn.
Free from the twang-oriented Cheese, Hollingsworth pleasantly flirts with chaos, an element hinted at in SCI jams but expanded into a funkier, more electronic realm here. There's the stoned stumble of "Seventh Step" that unexpectedly, but satisfyingly, lands us in some deep, molasses thick blues on "The Bridge," where he's aided by Robert Randolph's pedal steel and Yvonne Brown's "Great-Gig-In-The-Sky" vocalizing. Less appealing are the echoes of '80s Tangerine Dream on "The Arc" or the too-easy Latinismo of "Not Yet." He's back on his game with "The Preacher," which finds the band improvising to a radio sermon in a great update of Eno and Byrne's My Life In The Bush of Ghosts.
Long the single strongest ingredient in SCI's recipe, Hollingsworth shows there's more to his musical makeup than one might have guessed. Besides exhibiting a solid handle on the synthesized grooves happening today, he plies a Vince Guaraldi-ish mastery of piano and shows a fine ear for intriguing sounds that does his stated primary influences of the Talking Heads and The Cars proud. Nicely done, sir.
Track Listing: Prevolution; The Crusade; Seventh Step; The Bridge; The Preacher; Gigawatt; The Arc; Ohms; Don't Say; Not Yet; Boo Hoo's Pik-A-Nik; !Bam!; The Revolution
Personnel: Kyle Hollinsworth - keyboards, accordion, vocals, Ross Martin - guitar, Matt Spencer - bass, Dave Watts - drums with special guests Robert Randolph - pedal steel guitar on "The Bridge", Joshua Redman - saxophone on "The Crusade" and "!Bam!", Yvonne Brown - background vocals on "The Bridge" and "Don't Say", Michael Kang - electric mandolin on "The Preacher" and "The Arc".