Sister Hazel – Lighter In The Dark

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 15.43.22For over 20 years, Sister Hazel have been an alternative rock band.

However, we are very pleased to say that Sister Hazel have embraced country music in a very impressive way with the release of their ninth studio album ‘Lighter in the Dark’.

It’s their first album release in almost 6 years and has been recorded at Nashville’s Tin Ear Studio with the very able assistance of Music City producers and writers.

That’s not intended in any way to detract from the considerable writing skills of the band members themselves, who had a hand in every track. However the influence of co-writers Lee Brice, Luke Laird and Hilary Lindsey can be heard throughout this 14 track album

The band originate from Gainesville in Florida and started playing music together in 1993. Somewhat remarkably the original 5 members remain to this day. Their early days saw them signed to Universal Records and they had modest success including a single ‘All For You’ peaking just outside the Billboard Top 10.

They tour extensively but their fan base has had an extended wait for new music. Luckily for us the new album is their very first ‘country’ album.

They state that the band has connections with Nashville going back to 2005 and they have drawn on those experiences and contacts when producing this very welcome addition to our country collection.

The opening tracks are upbeat country-rock road songs, ‘Fall Off The Map’ sounding very classic Eagles-like.

The album contains so many highlights that it’s difficult to be selective, but a special mention has to be given to the track that has the potential to raise this band to the next level, ‘Karaoke Song’. It’s a song that has been performed live by Sister Hazel for a number of years but it was penned by Nashville songwriter Barry Dean, band member Andrew Copeland and Darius Rucker. Rucker sings guest lead alongside Ken Block. Expect very big things for this track.

Dates are already lined up for slots on national US TV including The Today Show.

Darius’s considerable presence is always welcome but Sister Hazel are a band that are perfectly capable of impressing without star guest names.

The song writing and production values on this album are top drawer.

The initial single release is actually ‘We Got It All Tonight’ written by Music Row veterans Chris Destefano, Ashley Gorley and songwriter of the year Rodney Clawson. This song has the potential to seriously dominate on country radio.

Other highlights, amongst many, include ‘Prettiest Girl At The Dance’ with slide guitars and acoustic guitars complimenting the glorious harmonies of Block, Copeland and Jett Beres, ‘Almost Broken’ with guest artist Jillian Jacqueline sharing vocals with Andrew Copeland on a very stark and haunting ballad, and ‘Back To Me’ which showcases the band’s diversity with a song that would fit in easily with today’s country chart contenders.

We are spoilt for choice and the quality extends to the end on this very enjoyable album.

The final track ‘Ten Candle Days’ starts with the solo, mournful fiddle that acts as a backdrop to the Jett Beres-penned masterpiece. It is very reminiscent of early Zac Brown Band material.

It’s early 2016 and there will be many contenders but I already suspect that this album may feature in our ‘albums of the year’ list.