New Sister Hazel gives off warm sense of nostalgia

Sister Hazel
Heartland Highway
Rock Ridge Music (RKM2-61300)
Grade: ★★★★

By Michael Popke

A warm sense of nostalgia permeates “Heartland Highway,” the eighth studio album in 15 years from Florida-based jangle-rockers Sister Hazel. Described by the band as “American road trip music,” this disc makes for an ideal traveling companion, crackling with Sister Hazel’s signature mix of Southern pop hooks, country-rock harmonies and universal lyrics. The familiarity of such tracks as “Great Escape,” “Far Away,” “At Your Worst” and the fun first single “Stay Awhile” provide musical comfort.

But then along comes “She’s Got a Hold On Me,” an unexpected hard rocker with a heavy groove unlike anything Sister Hazel has previously released. It’s followed by “Lessons in Love, Hope, and Faith” an ambitious but down-to-earth song trilogy written by bassist Jett Beres that closes “Heartland Highway.” Each song is about a woman who taught Beres important life lessons: his wife (“The Road”), his daughter (“Snow Globe World”) and his mother (“Behind the Sun”).

Keep this one in your car.

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