You've gotta hand it to country music. It's come a long way since its humble beginnings, when a pre-9/11 Brooks & Dunn incited an entire nation to get down, turn around, go to town and boot scootin' boogie. Yes, country & western music has a rich and checkered history dating back almost 15 years.
But it's a different world now, and Collin Herring knows this. That's why when he decided to make a country & western album called The Other Side of Kindness, he also incorporated a few other styles of music, like one called “alternative rock” (created in 1999 by Rob Thomas and Carlos Santana) and another called, simply, “rock” (invented last year by the White Stripes). This unique sound that Herring has created is difficult to describe, but I'm going to go out on a limb and call it (and you can quote me on this, fellow journalists) “alt-country.”
Songs like “Aphorism” and “Headliner,” both of which can be heard for free at collinherring.com, showcase the best of Herring's songwriting ability (um, even though one of them is instrumental). These songs are simple but elegant, and admirable for their simplicity. “Aphorism” in particular would make for a great track seven on the next lite-FM mix CD you make for your girlfriend.
Unfortunately, the rest of the album doesn't quite live up to the promise of those two songs. “Sinkhole of Love,” for example, is actually a very pretty song, but the cheesy metaphor of its title weighs it down. (A much better metaphor, if I may quote the Flaming Lips, is “holdin' your electric toaster, standin' in your bathtub of love.”)
Elsewhere, “Lazy Wind” and “Into the Morning” seem somewhat out of place, almost trying to sound like the cult-goth band Swans, but coming out more like bad Modest Mouse. That these two songs are meant to be the all-out rockers of the album is a testament to the fact that coddled and meditative is much more Herring's strong suit.
Otherwise, the album is actually rather pleasant, with opener “Back of Your Mind,” the other instrumental “Flowermound,” and “Motorcade” not necessarily standing out, but creating a rather nice mood that hopefully Herring can maintain on his next album, with a few more stronger songs to hold it all together.
In the end, The Other Side of Kindness is reasonably polite, harmless even, but with all the exciting new directions in “rock” music today, a guy just can't spend too much time with it. Like have you heard about this band Keane? They don't even use guitars! (Now I've heard everything!)
For Keyboardist Kyle Hollingsworth, a solo album has been a long time coming. Hollingsworth admits to spending over twenty years working on the various compositions that comprise his debut solo album. Hollingsworth is perhaps most known for his work with jam-band, the String Cheese Incident, a band that in itself maintains somewhat of an occult following. The work that Hollingsworth has put into this album is a result of an obsession for what he does best, playing music. Hollingsworth is known to occupy a private room of a nearby university in whatever town the SCI happens to be playing in. This devotion to practicing has resulted in a solid debut album that immediately captures the listener.
Nearly all of the songs on the album are instrumental, but the variety of instruments and unexpected background sounds hold the listener's attention throughout. Jazzy background vocals and bits of percussion highlight the keyboard. Eerie voices and techno-like sounds evoke an old-school rave; farm animal noises make one wonder where this album was actually recorded. Hollingsworth is the sole composer of this album, which is nothing short of amazing given the various sounds and techniques that are brought into the production. The music perfectly portrays the capabilities of the artist.
Though the album is beautifully created, it does lack in consistency. This, however, is something that was clearly intended. The effect of Hollingsworth’s arrangement can only be determined by the individual listener. Latching onto the particular style and sound of one song may not be the best idea, given how different each song is from the next. The colorful way in which Hollingsworth arranged his album keeps the listener guessing, never knowing what to expect next. This in itself is a success, as it makes it nearly impossible for the listener to become bored with the album.
Never Odd or Even serves as a revelation of the genius behind Hollingsworth. His obsession has allowed him to create remarkable music. Listening to his debut album, it cannot be denied that the keyboardist is the possessor of an immense talent.