Sister Hazel is a talented five-piece band from Gainesville, Florida. They practice a brand of catchy alt-pop with nice harmonies and a slight southern twang. On the first track on Fortress, "Change Your Mind," Fastball is a good reference point. "Thank You" is like Hootie and the Blowfish with more of an edge. "Champagne High" is a nice power ballad with a soaring chorus and background vocals by Indigo Girl Emily Saliers. And "Beautiful Thing" has something akin to the effortlessly catchy sounds of Counting Crows.
Producers Richie Zito (Cheap Trick, Joe Cocker) and Paul Ebersold (Stevie Ray Vaughn, 3 Doors Down) bring a thick and slickly produced sound to this, the band's second record. The chunky and occasionally funky guitars sound great, particularly on the songs written by singer and primary songwriter Ken Block. He shows he has a knack for great hooks on "Elvis," a song about a break-up in which all he wants to keep is his "big, painted velvet Elvis." Unfortunately, the band takes the concept of democracy a little too far and the mid-section of the record sounds a bit padded with contributions from other band members. Overall though, Fortress is a solid second effort for the band.
Universal Recods, 1755 Broadway, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10019