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Sister Hazel - Fortress


Arizona Daily Wildcat

By Ryan Finley
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
June 28, 2000
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By Ryan Finley

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Three Stars

Florida-based band Sister Hazel tries to avoid a sophomore jinx with their new album, Fortress. The band's radio-friendly 1996 album, Somewhere More Familiar sold more than a million albums due in part to the success of catchy singles "All for You" and "Happy."

Fortress tries to replicate the success of Somewhere More Familiar by capitalizing on what made the 1996 album successful - catchy beats and simple lyrics.

It appears, however, that the members of the five-person band has matured slightly since their first effort. While it makes for a more complex album, it's obvious that singer/guitarist Ken Block is hurting. Most songs, especially "Fortress" and "Elvis" deal with a sense of loss and expose the underbelly of success.

The band's first single from this album, "Change Your Mind," has seen moderate radio success since its release.

On the track, Block asks, "Do you ever think/ there might be another way/ To just feel better/ just feel better about today?"

While the song's brevity and simplicity makes it ideal for popular alternative radio, the rest of the album does little to compete with "Somewhere More Familiar."

"Champagne High," featuring Emily Sailers of the Indigo Girls, does little to break with the repetition of the album's early tracks. The lyrics "I'm on a champagne high/ where will I be when I stop wondering why?" tend to oversimplify the complexity of lost love.

While rife with saccharin tracks, Fortress is not an entirely poor album.

"Elvis" is a song about a man's bitter breakup with a girlfriend and it is, almost embarrassingly, good.

Songs such as "Thank You" and "Fortress," the six-minute long title track that closes out the album, showcase the band's collective maturity since their last effort. Still not completely realizing their potential, the once-naive Sister Hazel appears to be jaded by success. For a band that made its reputation singing happy, often carefree pop songs, sophistication might not equate into commercial success.

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