#6 – Sister Hazel

It’s been two months since my last contribution, but I haven’t forgotten my list of top 10 contemporary bands.  I started this thing way back in August, so here’s a quick recap:

10. Death Cab for Cutie/The Postal Service
9. Muse
8. Audioslave
7. Franz Ferdinand

Number six on the list is Sister Hazel, who pretty much nobody remembers except for two songs: “All for You” and “Change Your Mind.”  The latter is six years old now, but this Gainesville, Florida-based band hasn’t quit making music.  They’ve released 4 sets of songs (1 live) since 2000’s Fortress, with the latest, Absolutely, out just this year.

Recently, their recordings haven’t stood up to their talent, but they’re still one of my favorite bands.  They’ve also been recording independent of a major label, which hasn’t helped them get on the radio.  Sister Hazel is fantastic live, and I was fortunate to see them in early 2001.  Ryan Newell is an outstanding guitar player, and lead singer Ken Block, unlike many rock frontmen, can actually hit his notes in a live setting.

Here are my ten favorite Sister Hazel songs, swayed somewhat by live performances:

  1. Strange Cup of Tea
  2. All For You
  3. Change Your Mind
  4. Out There
  5. Happy
  6. Your Mistake
  7. Champagne High
  8. Thank You
  9. One Love
  10. Sword and Shield

Honorable Mentions:

  • Give In
  • Effortlessly
  • Everybody

“Strange Cup of Tea” snuck up on me as a high-energy track on Fortress.  Between the subject matter, hooks, and the guitar solo, it’s really tough to top, even by the two radio hits that follow on my list.  “Out There” and “Champagne High” would qualify as lyrically-strong ballads, both about love lost or never found.  Interestingly, love is the focus of most of Sister Hazel’s best songs, which explore both the high and low notes of relationships.  Melissa and I actually used “One Love” at our wedding, which makes it pretty special, anyway.

I would say that Sister Hazel is the most underrated band on my list.  I’ll never understand why they weren’t more popular, except that they’re not photogenic (so they’re not big on MTV).  They have far superior talent and songwriting skill compared to pretty much all of the rock bands that are popular today.

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