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New Band, Old Country

The Hollisters rise from the Rounders' ashes, and head for the honky-tonk

But what goes around comes around. When RCA dropped the Wagoneers, Warden decided to go solo, leaving Danheim to fend for himself. Danheim went to work for another roots band, Chaparral, that almost got signed to a major label before finally flaming out in early 1993. For the next year and a half after that, Danheim kicked around Austin, playing in blues bands and selling vintage guitars, but ultimately he decided to seek out his old Rounders soul mate in Houston.

Danheim and Barfield have been careful to distance the Hollisters from the Rounders' legacy, which, considering the band's enduring popularity in this town, might seem a strange decision. Nonetheless, when it came time to take the Hollisters -- whose name is borrowed from the singing moonshiner named Rafe Hollister on The Andy Griffith Show -- from concept to reality, Danheim and Barfield made two critical decisions: to hire a new rhythm section and to never play any Rounders originals.

"We wanted to cut the umbilical chord," Danheim says. "I just didn't want to be compared to the Rounders."

The Hollisters' rhythm section comes with credentials out the wazoo. Before joining the Hollisters, bassist Denny "Cletus" Blakely and drummer Kevin "Snit" Fitzpatrick maintained the bottom line for the Chris Masterson Band. When the Masterson band dissolved, Blakely and Fitzpatrick insisted on being hired as a team. Barfield and Danheim had no problem with this, considering that, along with their Masterson experience, Blakely had been a member of Webb Wilder's band and Fitzpatrick has laid down beats for groups all over the Southeast.

"These guys are unbelievable," Barfield says succinctly.
Together, the four musicians reconstitute, Texas-style, what was once called the Bakersfield sound (circa the '50s and '60s). They borrow and adapt from Buck Owens, early Johnny Cash and even Don Rich, the underappreciated guitarist and fiddler in Owens' Buckaroos who penned such hits as "Waiting in Your Welfare Line" and "Cowboy Convention." The result is some cool, crisp and ironically sophisticated country music.

What on the surface may seem like nostalgia is, to the Hollisters, merely an acknowledgment that some music is timeless. Barfield and Danheim are no pretenders. This is the music they listened to growing up; they're tied to it by history, culture and, most important, personal attraction. These guys truly love to honky-tonk. Barfield's voice sounds like it's directly descended from Cash, while Danheim's guitar work has a classic country soulfulness about it, yet can wander into more stinging country-rock territory when a song requires it.

The band wants to succeed without compromising its music for major labels or radio play lists, which seem to prefer an increasingly homogeneous sound meticulously concocted by a revolving set of session players in Nashville studios. The Hollisters have already recorded a four-song demo tape in Austin with the help of Rick "Casper" Rawls, the band's unofficial fifth member whose previous credits include stints with Chaparral, Kelly Willis and the LeRoi Brothers. The band is presently in the process of writing and rehearsing even more tunes for an upcoming CD project, which of course they'll shop around to sympathetic labels, perhaps Hightone or Black Top or Antone's.

"I just want to be make a go at it," Barfield says sincerely. "I believe we'll be on the road within a year. We made a vow not to stay stagnant."

How far the Hollisters go will depend on how well the band develops its approach. One industry insider who's heard the Hollisters generally likes the group, but thinks the band lacks an edge and a distinctive personality. "Craftsmanship without passion" is the way he described it.

Of course, one could argue it's hard to have a lot of passion when you're mostly playing for sailboats.

The Hollisters play Friday, August 4 at the Fabulous Satellite Lounge, 3616 Washington Avenue. Tickets are $5. The Derailers open. For info, call 869-

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