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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Sister Hazel

Heartland Highway

Review by Gary Hill

Sister Hazel is one of those bands that are just plain consistent, no matter how you slice it. They always put out quality albums that exist somewhere between arena rock and modern pop rock. Yet they always manage to stretch their sound and work into other areas, too. Heartland Highway is their latest and it’s a great disc that continues that tradition. If you like Sister Hazel, you’ll love it. If you’ve never checked them out before, it would be a great place to start.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2010  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Great Escape

This starts a bit stripped down and the verses return to that format. It’s pretty typical Sister Hazel, but the chorus has a bit of a power pop hook.

Stay Awhile
While this doesn’t have the pop hook appeal of the previous number, it’s tasty and also includes some slide guitar.
Far Away
There’s an almost prog rock intricacy on the intro to this. In some ways the chorus seems to reflect that, as well. All that said, though, this is pretty typical Sister Hazel music. And, that’s a good thing.
Let The Fire Burn
A mellower piece, this is still trademark Sister Hazel, but perhaps not up to the same level as the songs that came before it.
At Your Worst
There’s almost a blues slide guitar sound on the intro, but that changes to nearly country music as it continues. Of course, those two sounds are mostly just on the introduction. When they move out to the song proper it’s pretty standard and catchy Sister Hazel, but a little of that blues edge does remain.
The Saddest Song (Not Coming Home)
One can probably figure out from the title that this is a song about a relationship ending. It is a sad ballad, but it’s also emotionally poignant.
Where You're Going
This little number is a major change of pace. It’s an old school rocker that feels like it could have come from Bob Seger. I’m inclined to think that someone other than Ken Block is singing on this tune.
Complicate
There’s quite a bit of The Beatles on this piece, but it’s still all Sister Hazel.
She's Got A Hold On Me
Here’s another where it sounds like Block isn’t the singer. This is the hardest rocker on the disc. At times it feels like modern progressive rock. At other times it seems closer to old school Southern rock. Still, there are points where it calls to mind Toto.
Lessons In Love, Hope, And Faith - Part 1 The Road
There’s a lot of country music built into this. It starts in a mellow motif, but turns out to more rocking territory as they continue, but that twang remains throughout.
Lessons In Love, Hope, And Faith - Part 2 Snow Globe World
Starting mellow and intricate, this grows out into something that’s not all that far removed from progressive rock. It’s still got a trademark Sister Hazel sound, but there are certainly other elements at play, too.
Lessons In Love, Hope, And Faith - Part 3 Behind The Sun
A balladic approach makes up the main motif on this piece. It grows to a more rocking style and calls to mind George Harrison a bit. It’s a great closer. The guitar solo section really screams out with classic rock sounds.
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