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POP MUSIC REVIEW

Sister Hazel Blends Charisma With Energy, Relentless Goodwill

September 11, 1997|NATALIE NICHOLS

Sister Hazel's tale is an "overnight success" story a la Hootie & the Blowfish: Hard-working band builds regional following, is rewarded with major recording contract and scores a big hit--in Sister Hazel's case, the bouncy Top 10 love song "All for You."

So it wasn't surprising that the Gainesville, Fla., quintet was fairly flushed with excitement during its sold-out Tuesday concert at the Troubadour, where the players displayed a tight-knit musical adeptness honed by months of touring. Their Populist roots-rock recalled such artists as Blues Traveler and Counting Crows, particularly the latter in its blend of blues-tinged pop and jam-band expansiveness.

The band didn't indulge in lots of spaced-out riffing--although there were the obligatory guitar and drum solos--but rather loaded the songs with dynamics, energy and relentless goodwill. While the set drew mostly from Sister Hazel's major-label debut, " . . . Somewhere More Familiar," the band also took some strange turns, crooning "The Star-Spangled Banner" a cappella and singing "Happy Birthday" to a friend. The music was lively, and the four-part harmonizing added dimension, but all that jangling, rhythmic rollicking eventually blended into one bland mass of good vibes.

Nevertheless, Sister Hazel possesses a blend of earthy charisma and hippie values that's sure to captivate the legions who love bands like Hootie and the Crows. The show was just another reminder that, while pop artists continue pushing boundaries and exploring new frontiers, listeners often prefer the tried-and-true sounds.

The Tories, who opened, offered a complementary set of upbeat comfort tunes, blending generic bar rock and power-pop into something that wasn't quite unique, in spite of frontman Steve Bertrand's eccentric antics.

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