For more than twenty years,Â Sister HazelÂ – Ken Block, Jett Beres, Andrew Copeland, Ryan Newell and Mark Trojanowski – has built a musical connection with fans playing bars and clubs, theaters, arenas, college campuses and festivals. After a five-year absence, they return February 19th with their thirteenth release,Â Lighter In The Dark,Â which was recorded in Nashvilleâ€™s Tin Ear Studio and produced by their longtime engineer Chip Matthews. The album contains fourteen tracks, most co-written by members of the band, but there are also some from outside writers including the albumâ€™s debut single, â€œWe Got It All Tonight,â€ written by Chris DeStefano, Ashley Gorley and Rodney Clawson.
Lighter In The DarkÂ kicks off with the rush of â€œFall Off The Map,â€ taking you on a trip thatâ€™s fueled by the bandâ€™s fusion of influences and balanced by their distinctive lead vocals, harmonies and a hefty dose of heart. Thereâ€™s amusingÂ (â€œItâ€™s over when youâ€™re soberâ€)Â dance floor numbers with a rockabilly flair like â€œKiss Me Without Whiskeyâ€ and â€œPrettiest Girl At The Dance,â€ and special guests including Darius Rucker on the fun, relatable â€œKaraoke Songâ€ and newcomer Jillian Jacqueline who adds a gripping vocal on the heartbreak ballad â€œAlmost Broken.â€
One of the albumâ€™s highlights â€œSomething To Believe Inâ€ sees the band from the other side of the stage,Â â€œIâ€™m just a kid from Gainesville watching Petty with my lighter in the dark,â€Â while â€œDanger Is Realâ€ with itâ€™s revival feel, puts forth an inspiring and uplifting messageÂ â€œDonâ€™t chose to be afraid there are lessons in our tears.â€Â Â Rounding out the album is the roots rockinâ€™ â€œRun Highway Run,â€ the shuffling, sing along anthem â€œTake It With Me,â€ the acoustic â€œThoroughbred Heart,â€ on which their harmonies shine, and â€œBack To Me,â€ touching a nerve as he singsÂ â€œIâ€™d just love to see the love I gave you come back to me.â€
The best, however, is saved for last with â€œTen Candle Days.â€ Written by Beres, who also sings lead for the first time, the song is an ode to the hard working minerâ€™s life; a lovely arrangement highlighted by his vocals and quiet fiddle that tells a powerful yet somehow peaceful.
Beres has said, â€œAnd weâ€™ve always been unclassifiable, Weâ€™ll put out a record and go, â€˜What is it? Is it country music? Is it Southern rock? Is it pop? is it college acoustic, alternative?â€™â€ Sister Hazel might not be able to fit neatly into any one category, but it doesnâ€™t really matter, because itâ€™s just good music.