Thursday, February 18, 2016

Sister Hazel at the Gramercy Theatre

Ken Block
Ken Block began singing and playing his guitar publicly at age 12 in Gainesville, Florida. In 1993, he formed Sister Hazel with rhythm guitarist Andrew Copeland and bassist Jett Beres, naming the band after a local missionary who ran a homeless shelter. Shortly after the band released its self-titled debut album in 1994, lead guitarist Ryan Newell and drummer Mark Trojanowski joined the band, although Newell had played on the album before officially joining the group. The band has remained intact all this time, with keyboardist Dave LaGrande joining the tours since 2012. Sister Hazel's ninth studio album, Lighter in the Dark, will be released tomorrow, February 19, 2016.

Sister Hazel's new album leans more country than previous albums, and at the Gramercy Theatre tonight, it seemed like this new direction was a solid new fit for the band. The band opened with the upbeat "Happy," a song from two decades ago, which launched an audience sing-along. Block sang in tenor, sometimes raspy enough to keep it from sounding too smooth. The songs often built crescendos, and melodic lead guitar and gang harmonies jumped in exactly when expected. The music was rocking, with pop hooks and country flavorings to keep the fans grooving. Perhaps the sound was a bit too safe, but maybe this is what made it pleasantly familiar.

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