Sister Hazel


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Sister Hazel probably deserved more from AAA radio than the cup of coffee they got with 1997's "All for You." They write strong hooks, and cultivate the same easily accessible sound that brought silver platters of success to dudes like Rob Thomas and Adam Duritz. That said, Sister Hazel might be leaning a little much on the easygoing with 2004's Lift. The album is a pressed pair of chinos for the headphones, wrapped in tastefully intellectual packaging (a Thoreau quote? Come on....) and moving easily in a wrinkle-free landscape of impossibly dull rock. Sure, the pause before "Surrender"'s chorus crackle is energizing and true. And "I Will Come Through" is capable enough as Flying-V funk for squares who think Lenny Kravitz is too black. "Green," too, is at least as catchy as Train, so why shouldn't it be a hit? Who knows. We aren't privy to Sister Hazel's radio programmer woes. What's clear is that Lift never met a production tweak it didn't like. The album's an afterthought lost inside a fluffy down pillow. Its guitar licks are pruned, Ken Block's amiable rasp is meticulously smoothed, and stuff like "Lay It Down" and "Dreamers" is a step away from the cultured croon of Christian rock. With Lift, Sister Hazel also found it necessary to cover the Cars' "Just What I Needed." While the song's raucous chorus won't be denied, Hazel hems and haws the verses, sucking them of the original's sharp-collar power and generally aligning their version with Frente!'s cutey-patootie tumble through the "Bizarre Love Triangle." In other words, Sister Hazel plays it so safe with Lift that their biggest selling point -- easy accessibility -- becomes their biggest liability.

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