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Published: 2009/09/28
by Brian Robbins

Kyle Hollingsworth
Then There's Now

SCI Fidelity Records

Keyboardist Kyle Hollingsworth’s newly-released solo album Then There’s Now is a neat mix of personal feelings, musical stretching-outs, and just plain fun stuff. You can start with the album’s name and go from there with finding as-deep-as-you-want-it-to-be meanings and messages … or you can just shake your butt, nod your head happily, and smile. Nobody’s gonna hold it against you.

We all knew Hollingsworth could crank on the funk when his berth with the String Cheese Incident called for it over the years, but Then There’s Now lays the proof on us with the drop of the needle on the opener “Way That It Goes.” Whucka-whucka-whucka! Hollingsworth lays down a rapped-out tour of the street before ripping off a key break that hints at going ape but remains cool. “She” starts off with a stripped-down big-beat-in-the-foreground techno sound, evolving into a dreamy, happy swirl.

The album’s instrumentals allow for some experimentation: “Phat Cat” is an audio buffet that leans to the jazzier side of the menu, while “Wide Open” morphs seamlessly from summery drift to big crunchiness. “Don’t Wake Me”’s vocal/keyboard weaves are just plain pretty, while we need to thank the engineer for leaving the tape rolling during the jam that ends “Too Young,” winding down from a wide-open rave-up to a final tickle of the keys.

There are cuts on Then There’s Now that could neatly fit into the Cheese repertoire: “Piece of Mine” will have you digging out a copy of Outside Inside to see if you missed it the first time around, while “All I Need” gives us a 2:17 tease of what could easily put a field full of Cheeseheads into full carnival mode when jammed out. And the album’s closer, “All Inside” slowly grows from a bare-bones rhythm track to a full-blown wall of layered keys, guitars, drums, turntables, and voices, sending you out the door with the final chorus firmly implanted in your mind.

Having said all that, don’t think for a minute that Then There’s Now is “Cheese Lite” – rather, it’s an indication of how much Hollingsworth brings to the table in the group setting – and how powerful a musician (and bandleader) he is when left to his own devices.

With any luck, there’ll be collaborations in the future between Hollingsworth and his String Cheese Incident bandmates such as this year’s Rothbury performance. But for right now, Then There’s Now stands on its own two funky feet just fine, thank you.

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