For the past two years, Hal Hollander and his country-rock group Kickback have been playing cover tunes six nights a week at venues such as the Hut and Bimini Bay up in North Palm Beach. But somehow Hollander found the time to write and record Strung Out, a CD of thirteen original tunes. Hollander, who plays guitar, produced the CD himself. He also plays bass on the CD. And keyboards and drums. And harmonica.
Hollander got others to handle the occasional conga drum and steel guitar and left the vocal duties to his partner, Lisa Logan. "Lisa's voice, it's great," Hollander says. "When we do our cover stuff, she sounds like Alanis Morissette or Melissa Etheridge, but when she sings in her own style, it comes out in her own country-rock kind of way."
Hollander added an extra bit of spice to Strung Out by enlisting the help of saxophone player Clarence Clemons, who happens to be an old friend. Before Clemons joined Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, he and Hollander were in the Joyful Noyze, a blues-rock outfit based in New Jersey. Clemons was happy to bring his sax to an old friend's recording sessions; the "Big Man" is featured on four of Strung Out's tracks. One song, "Asbury Nights," was written while Clemons and Hollander sat in the studio reminiscing.
"Certainly, Clarence being on the album has helped us quite a bit," Hollander observes. "A lot of the labels that don't necessarily listen to new music listened to it because Clarence was on it."
But it's Hollander's songwriting that has received the most attention. In May the German label BST Records will release "Sexy Little Thing" as a single in Europe. "Swing" has generated an interest in Nashville, where four producers are interested in buying the song. And a couple of major labels have approached Hollander with possible record and distribution deals. Kickback now has to think about getting an agent.
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"We sent the CD to a contact I know at BMI Nashville," Hollander explains. "And that person made copies of it and sent it to several agents and producers, and they called us, and now we have two agents that want to represent us. But we've never worked with an agent before, so we're taking it slow."
Hollander prefers not to jinx his lucky streak by mentioning the names of the labels -- "Who knows, it might fall through" -- but he will say that he's preparing to head to Nashville to re-record Strung Out using Reba McEntire's band. "I guess they're just sitting around doing nothing right now," Hollander says.
Despite all the excitement, Hollander sounds curiously underwhelmed. Or maybe, given his six-gig-a-week schedule, he's just tired. "None of this will happen until at least April or May," he says. "We don't have the time."
Strung Out is available at Blue Note Records, and local Blockbuster Music and Sam Goody stores. Keep up with Kickback by calling the group's hotline, 561-653-7177, to hear about upcoming performances.