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.
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