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Ken Block
Drift
Rock Ridge Music
www.blockville.com


Ken Block is best known for his work as frontman for the seminal Floridian college rock band Sister Hazel. Sister Hazel first came into the spotlight way back with the loose acoustic anthem "All For You", but my favorite was always "Happy". That song showed the rare gift that Block possessed… the ability to turn a phrase in such a manner as to create an indelible image in the mind, twisting words in such a way that belies many modern poets. Dylan can do it. Shakespeare could do it. Block can do it as well.

On his latest solo outing Drift, Ken Block takes simple phrases and turns them on their ears, creating more memorable, if downbeat, songs with more than their fair shares of both heart and soul. "Blue To A Blindman" is a perfect example, as Block chants along a nice calm acoustic line his mantra of "It's like trying to teach blue to a blind man, rude to a kind man, or walking on the sun… but teaching blue to a blindman can't be done". There are tracks that invoke the sounds of mid-era R.E.M. ("Completely Wasted") and tracks that recall the salad days of college rock ("It's Alright"), as well as tracks that just bleed with heartache and tears ("Better This Way"). All the tracks have the unmistakable stamp of Block's recognizable and gravelly smooth voice and laid-back guitar playing, and each of them takes the language and makes it work in a magical way. Check out the rocking "33,059 Days" or the gritty "You & Me" for a slice of Sister Hazel style love song complete with crystalline drum sounds and brilliant electric guitar. Obviously, Block maintains much of the soul of his band even when not fronting them. The songs on Drift are just as likeable as anything he's ever written and contain an immediate familiarity, the kind that the greatest of pop songs should have.

Drift has a very reflective soul, delving into themes of loss and compassion, but all the while Block maintains a ray of beautiful hope. And that hope is what floats the songs, in all their low near-dismal missives, back to a wonderful, healing tone that would surely lift the most darkened spirit. Block knows grief, but his music is his way of exorcising those demons, and for those who are struggling with sorrow in their own lives, there is a sure bit of consolation in these songs. And if you're not grieving, there's the trademark wordplay and brilliant musicianship that has carried all those Sister Hazel albums over the years… and I think there's a new one of those on the way, as well.

-Embo Blake

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