Clearly, the members of Sister Hazel don't agree with the sentiments expressed in Sheryl Crow's "A Change Can Do You Good", and the Gainesville, Florida quintet's fourth album demonstrates this perfectly. The band found success in 1997 with their major label debut album, Somewhere More Familiar, and the breakout single "All for You", and their brand of highly melodic pop-rock helped them shift over one million records. Even though Sister Hazel are out on their own after splitting with Universal Records, Chasing Daylight shows no sign of a change in direction.
Undeniably middle of the road, yet filled with powerful hooks and choruses, the album's consistency and honesty epitomises Sister Hazel's hard work ethic, and although it is by no means perfect, it can't be denied that Chasing Daylight is vastly preferable to the abomination that is Hootie & the Blowfish's latest eponymous album. It's actually a pleasant listen if this genre is your thing.
Opener "Your Mistake" is classic Sister Hazel, and deviates not a jot from the sound the band has crafted since 1993, with its strong, familiar chorus, clean, safe production from Don McCollister, and typically impassioned vocal delivery from singer/songwriter Ken Block. Ground-breaking, innovative, and experimental it most certainly is not, but I'm certain the band's loyal following will ferociously argue that there's something to be said for homogeneity, and it's clear the band has heeded such advice to give 'em what they want.
But then again, Sister Hazel never pretend to be anything other than the predictable, consistent band they clearly are, and if, like myself, you're sucker for a warm, inviting melody, then the rest of the material here will not disappoint. Instead of the usual two or three stand-out tunes on previous albums, the band has clearly gained a new lease on life since becoming an indie once again, as the album as a whole will be enthusiastically received by the band's fans.
The epic "Life Got in the Way" opens with a U2-esque guitar intro and develops into a heartfelt, solid rock tune, sharing a similar sense of urgency and melody with the excellent "Come Around". "One Love" is perhaps a little too clichéd and contrived in the lyrics department, with its refrain of "One you / One me / One chance for us to live / One you / One me / One love", but there's a sincerity to the song (as well as one hell of an infectious hook) that leads you to forgive such crimes.
"Best I'll Ever Be" and "Killing Me Too" are the album's obligatory ballads, but despite the schmaltz, they are undeniably good examples of the genre. Elsewhere, Sister Hazel continue to play to their strengths on the frenetic "Swan Dive" and the trademark pop-rock of "Effortlessly", but for some reason they deviate momentarily from the norm to try a little hint of reggae in the god awful "Everybody".
Of course, there's a reason why bands like Sister Hazel no longer have major label recording contracts (and listening to "Everybody" is as good a reason as any), but despite their unfashionable image, there is still a healthy number of people out there who will appreciate what Sister Hazel bring to the fore on Chasing Daylight. Yes, it's formulaic, predictable, and safe, but when it respects what the band's core fans demand and expect (and is highly melodic), you can't argue. Sister Hazel will clearly never scale the heights of national attention that "All for You" brought them in 1997, but in their own back yard and surrounding area you sense they will always be supported by a body of fans that recognize in the band the same values they hold dear in their everyday lives.