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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Sister Hazel

Release

Review by Gary Hill

The latest Sister Hazel disc is an exercise in the democracy of a band. Each member of the group brought a couple songs to the table to create the disc. For my money, this form of choosing music is a bit over-rated. Sure there are some great tracks here, but there are also a few that are just average. There are some cuts that don’t really feel like Sister Hazel at all. Overall, though, I’d think of this as a “very good” album from a band that usually produces “great” ones.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Release
The title track opens the set. The acoustic guitar rock that begins it has a really classic sound. This has so much 70s rock along with modern alternative pop and folk music in the mix. It's a catchy cut that is really trademark Sister Hazel. It's an excellent way to start the ride in style.
Take a Bow
There’s more of a rocking approach to this with modern alternative rock sounds merging with classic rock elements. This is a good piece and might have made for a stronger opening salvo.
I Believe In You
More than anything else, this is a folky soft rocker. It’s got some intriguing sections that are a bit more powered up, though. 
Run For The Hills
This is an energetic cut that has a great old school rock sound to it. It's a catchy, hook-laden number. It's purely infectious. I love the vocal arrangement. Of course, there's really nothing I don't like about the cut. The instrumental section is short, but a lot of fun. The dropped back movement after that works really well, too.
Better Way
This is both lyrically and musically powerful. It’s a dynamic cut starting mellow and turning into quite a rocker. I like this one a lot. In fact, it might be my favorite cut on show here.
Walls and Cannonballs
Another rocker, this is also another of the standouts on the disc. It’s got clever lyrics and a great musical arrangement. There’s a killer retro guitar solo in the midst of this, too.
Vacation Rain
They continue with the energetic music here. This is good, but not as strong as the last couple numbers. It would probably be a standout on a lesser album, but here it’s just sort of average. 
See Me Beautiful
A mellower pop rock number, this is good, but not really exceptionally special. The lyrics, though, are quite cool. 
One Life
Here’s a paradox. On the one hand it’s a success because it’s an evocative and very pretty ballad. That said, it lacks a lot of the charisma and charm Sister Hazel usually gives us. That means this is the type of song that could have come from any number of bands. In other words, I like this, but I think Sister Hazel is capable of a lot more. 
Take It Back
Now, this is more like it. Yes, it’s pretty typical Sister Hazel, but it’s also an exceptionally strong pop rocker. 
Fade
This actually stretches out a bit from the classic Sister Hazel sound, while still managing to hold it together in a way that is very much SH. I like it a lot and it’s another highlight of the set. 
Ghost in the Crowd
The intro on this reminds me very much of The Yardbirds “Shapes of Things.” As they drop it piano to start the song proper, though, I think of Jellyfish. It’s still classic Sister Hazel, though – with some great classic rock elements. There’s some Skynyrd in here and a screaming, bluesy guitar based section that calls to mind both The Yardbirds and the band that came from them, Led Zeppelin. I don’t remember ever hearing Sister Hazel rock out this much on a studio album – or give us this much of an extended instrumental jam. Overall, this composition is another highlight of the set and covers quite a bit of musical territory. It’s a great way to end the disc.
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