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Steve Kolander

Pieces of a Puzzle – 1996 (River North)

Reviewed by Joel Bernstein

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CDs by Steve Kolander

Steve Kolander looks like a rockabilly revivialist, can sound a lot like Chris Isaak,and is trying to make it on country radio. It's an odd combination, and one that doesn't work quite as well here as on Kolander's first album, which featured minor hits (but major gems) "Black Dresses" and "Listen To Your Woman." It's a tribute to Kolander's talent that he's had any success at all at radio, because even on a string-laden ballad he'll never be mistaken for a "hat act."

Kolander is at his best doing mellow rockabilly, like the Isaak-styled "Blue O'Clock," more straightforward ballads like "We Should've Just Stayed Friends" or rockers like "Romeo" and Billy Swan's "I Can Help."Except for lacking the toy organ sound, the latter is almost as good as the original (and miles better than Aaron Tippin's recent cover) and might be a number that could make it on radio without compromising his natural style.

Unless he can manage a fluke hit like that, Kolander may be forced to wander forever as a major talent in search of an audience.