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Sister Hazel

Rock groups have taken their names from fictional characters, films, songs, cities, states, catch phrases and slang. Tired of the usual, some sought more unconventional sources. Down in Gainesville, FL, there was Sister Hazel's Rescue Mission. An African-American woman, Sister Hazel, ran the mission in the '70s and '80s. So it seemed natural for five Gainesville Rockers to lift the name as a tribute. Probably the only rescue mission operator so honored in Rock's entire history.

Sister Hazel formed in '94 and released a self-titled CD. That effort built help build a strong local following. The next step was the addition of Ryan Newell on guitar. Their second self-produced CD " Somewhere More Familiar" rolled out in '96 and sold 10,000 copies. Universal Records picked it up and re-released it in '97. "Concede," an acoustic/electric-Rocker featuring a swishing Hammond organ was a perfect example of Sister Hazel's sound. "All For You" and the driving "Happy" launched them on the road for a year-plus.

After a brief break, the group re-established itself in beautiful L.A. to work on their next CD. Numerous songs, approximately 60, came and went. Dissatisfaction set in and another break was deemed necessary.

With both Block and Copeland recharged, additional songs were written and the group decided to continue recording in Atlanta. "Fortress," released in '00, had the epic title track closing the CD. It was one of those "pressures of the world, price of fame" etc. songs. Artistic statements notwithstanding the first single, "Change Your Mind," the Rocker "Surreal," "Beautiful Thing" and "Strange Cup Of Tea" were the CD's click points.

When a group parts with a major label it usually means a quick ticket to oblivion. But Sister Hazel had other ideas. In '03, they "amicably" split with Universal. Some people choose artistic freedom over a shot at fame and fortune. Imagine that.

Sister Hazel found a new home on the indie Sixthman imprint and released their fourth studio album, "Chasing Daylight." They toured throughout the year and built a significant online presence developing a cult of devoted fans who referred to themselves as "Hazelnuts" (cute). The group issued "Live LIVE" toward the end of the year along with "A Day In The Life," a live DVD.

"Lift" was issued in '04 with "Lift: Acoustic Renditions" arriving the next year. For the latter, the group again looked online for the distribution of acoustic versions of five songs from "Lift." This time it was an exclusive arrangement with Apple's iTunes music service. "Absolutely," was the group's '06 offering.

Sister Hazel went back to the "unplugged" well again for '09's. "Before The Amplifiers - Live Acoustic." The set was recorded in Atlanta before a small audience selected at random from 5,000 entries.

Later in the year, Trojanowski left for personal reasons with Ed Toth (Doobie Brothers) sitting in.

Next, Sister Hazel's profile got a major boost. Ford Motor Company announced a collaboration to promote their new Sync Technology with Sister Hazel as the "face" of the Sync My Ride Web site.

Concurrently, Sister Hazel wrapped up work on their seventh studio album, "Release." The 12-track album arrived in August.

Sister Hazel Discography

Studio Albums:

1994 Sister Hazel
1997 ...Somewhere More Familiar
2000 Fortress
2003 Chasing Daylight
2004 Lift 2006 Absolutely
2009 Release
2010 Heartland Highway
2016 Lighter In The Dark

Encompassing Folk, Alt. Rock and Southern Rock, along with other lesser influences, it is difficult to pigeon-hole Sister Hazel. That must have made it difficult for a label's marketing people but good for fans who appreciated the group's rather eclectic approach.

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