Sister Hazel

BAM!, Vol. 1

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BAM!, Vol. 1 Review

by Jo-Ann Greene

As any Hazelnut will tell you, what Sister Hazel does best is craft superb pop/rock songs, hey they've been doing that since the get-go. Once upon a time it was a skill that took the group consistently into the charts; now, not so much, although that's no reflection on the band's songcraft. And that talent is in full flight here on Bam!, an album stuffed with previous cast-offs. These are numbers that didn't make the album's cut, were relegated to bonus track oblivion, B-side neglect, or left to slumber on archived studio and rehearsal tapes. All of which makes Bam! sound like a bunch of rejects, when they're actually anything but. A clutch of the songs are fairly recent, recorded across 2005, others date further back in time, some as early as 1999. A taster for the album, "What Kind of Living," has been available online, and is one of a trio of strong songs from pre-turn of the millennium. Matching them in intensity are a pair of numbers recorded at rehearsals in 2005, with "Wrong the Right Way" particularly effective in this raw form. There again the excitement that infuses "Boy Next Door," one of a clutch of songs recorded in late 2001/early 2002, the frisson of "Sweet Destiny," the muscularity of "Grand Canyon," and the uncertain yet exquisite guitars on "She's Gone," all from this same period, capture the group at their headiest heights. The newest numbers, in contrast, sound far more polished and finished, bar the more rough and ready "Little Black Heart," and thus the album envelops the entire musical process, from rehearsal to studio to final form. And what more could fans want than to hear the band at all these stages, with even the songs at their most embryonic sounding superb. No major label would dare chance a set like this. More fool them.

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