Sister Hazel

Before the Amplifiers: Live Acoustic

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Sister Hazel goes "unplugged" in this live in the studio recording before a small invited audience of fans and friends. The band's repertoire of romantic, melodic, electro-acoustic pop/rock songs lends itself to arrangements that eliminate the electric instruments in favor of lots of acoustic guitar playing, but at the same time the songs are not that different in this form. As such, the group might have adopted a more communicative approach, with lead singer Ken Block introducing the songs in greater detail. He does give some explication in front of "Just Remember" and "Change Your Mind," but for the most part restricts himself to informing his listeners which albums the tunes come from, as if they didn't know. Actually, the audience seems more enthusiastic than the band, hooping and hollering and even singing along on "Swan Dive." In its post major-label career, Sister Hazel has cultivated its fans with special events and the usual series of releases aimed at their core audience (live albums, rarities albums, holiday albums), of which this is another. Selecting songs from each of the band's six studio albums (with half the tunes coming from the major-label sets Somewhere More Familiar and Fortress), the disc provides a good summary of their catalog in an intimate setting. Maybe they should try another borrowed idea from MTV, however, and do a "storytellers" album to go along with this "unplugged" one.

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