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From the Country Standard Time Archives

Houston's finest doesn't disappoint

Johnny D's, Somerville, Mass., Aug. 12, 1998

By Joel Bernstein

SOMERVILLE, MA - With their well-reviewed but poorly distributed CD "The Land of Rhythm and Pleasure" out for a year, The Hollisters, Houston's top country band, was borne by a small but very positive buzz that allowed them to draw a respectably sized midweek crowd.

The band did not disappoint, as it ripped through a 22-song, 100-minute set touching on nearly every aspect of country music. Vocally, Mike Barfield is to (young) Johnny Cash as Ronnie McDowell is to Elvis Presley (TV-Movie producers take note). On some songs, the resemblance is uncanny, although on others Barfield is more easily distinguishable. The Hollisters' original songs, generally co-written by Barfield and guitarist (ex-Wagoneer) Eric Donheim, formed the bulk of the set. This included most of the songs on their CD as well as some new songs, including "Dumptruck Song," dedicated to a group of truckers normally neglected in songs.

Some numbers, like crowd pleaser "Deacon Brown" and "Tyler," were done pretty much as on the disc, while "Pike County Blues" and "I Don't Need No Woman" turned into long instrumental jams.

Tex-Mex ditty "Pink Adobe Hacienda" is another strong number, which easily survived the loss of the CD version's accordion. The Hollisters also covered Hank Williams (I'll Be A Bachelor Til I Die"), George Jones ("Treasure Of Love"), Doc Watson ("Greenville Trestle Highway," presented as Kentucky Headhunters-style bluegrass), Elvis Presley ("Little Egypt") and relatively obscure fifties country songwriter Wayne Walker ("All I Can Do Is Cry") The Hollisters have been playing together for three years, and they are a tight unit. Visually, their sex appeal doesn't rival Hanson's, but they have solid stage presence and Barfield engages in enjoyable southern-fried humorous banter.

After finishing the East Coast swing, the band will play Texas dates before hitting the West Coast around mid-September. If they play anywhere near your town, you'd be well advised to check them out.

Opening was local favorite Nola Rose. Nola Rose & The Thorns released a fine CD in 1996 called "I Thought I Heard An Angel," containing mostly original songs in a traditional country style. Rose is just returned from a lengthy stay in Nashville and "The Thorns" on this gig were essentially a pickup band. Thus most of her 12-song set was devoted to covers, although she did do crowd favorite "I'll Call You When I'm Ready" and the album's title song. She celebrated Buck Owens' birthday with four of his songs and performed other country classics, with an emphasis on shuffles. Rose is a fine singer who was in excellent voice, and she puts on a quality show with new or old material.