Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Kneejerk: Sister Hazel – Willy Porter

Welcome to the latest edition of KNEEJERK, where we preview some new releases and give our short, "kneejerk" reaction...

Sister Hazel “Heartland Highway”

The prolific Sister Hazel is back with another serving of their brand of organic pop rock. Sister Hazel is best known for their smash hit “All For You” from the 90s, and if you ask most people they probably think the band dropped off the face of the earth after that breakthrough – not true! Sister Hazel has been quietly but consistently delivering some of the best guitar driven rock ever since, and “Heartland Highway” keeps that spirit alive. No autotune, no synths, no synthetic anything…just pure music based on a mix of acoustic and electric guitars, mandolin, and strings. As usual, the band continues to write about positive things to match their sunny musical disposition – “Stay Awhile” is about hanging in there, “Great Escape” is about taking time to absorb the things that make life worth living, and “Far Away” is an anthem of reassurance to a loved one. There are so many likeable tunes on this one, but the upbeat “Let The Fire Burn” is the one I find myself wanting to go back to the most. True to the record’s name, there is a palpable flavor of heartland rock, especially on “The Saddest Song” and “Where You’re Going”. The band does something new on this one, too – a three song saga at the end entitled “Lessons in Love, Hope, and Faith”. In short, another winner from my brothers in Sister Hazel.

Willy Porter and Carpe Diem “Live at BoMA”

Take an extraordinary talent like Willy Porter and pair him with the acclaimed Carpe Diem String Quartet and you have a match made in heaven – or at least something that rivals the Reese’s chocolate peanut butter cup. “Live at BoMA” captures this magical collaboration, featuring seven previously released fan favorites rearranged with the quartet. The beautiful performances from Carpe Diem do not take away from the jaw dropping skills of this extraordinary acoustic guitarist, who plays a 9-string guitar custom designed by him, but synergize and elevate the songs to new heights (you can read our review of Porter’s last effort, “How To Rob A Bank” here). “Live at BoMA” marks his eighth release and is a perfect introduction to Porter’s gift, and makes a great addition to any fan’s collection.