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Joe C. Wails - "Reign Dance" (CD)

Joe C. Wails - "Reign Dance" CD cover image

"Reign Dance" track listing:

1. Intro/Push Comes To Shove (2:35)
2. Snake In The Grass (4:37)
3. Eye Of The Storm (4:35)
4. Temperamental (2:08)
5. Chainsaw Jane (3:45)
6. Vertigo (3:19)
7. C.O. S. (4:32)
8. F# (3:26)
9. Charmed (3:23)

Reviewed by on August 31, 2009

"Though the guitar work isn’t as stellar as that of the aficionados in the field, both Candelario and backup guitarist Woody Sebastian offer acoustic and electric riffs that are a pleasing mix of blues, funk, and chugging southern rock."

Adopting a pseudonym based upon one of your favorite films is a unique move for a musician, and in the case of Joe C. Wails, it appears to have nothing to do with his musical style. Because guitarist Joe Candelario chose a name that clearly points to the old western outlaw Josey Wales, and titled his release "Reign Dance," I was expecting an album chocked full of western tinged hard rock, maybe something similar to old Bon Jovi tunes, with plenty of steel guitar and perhaps some tribal chanting.

Though there is a brief clip from the original film in the opening tune, and an equally brief Native American chant that one assumes must be a rain dance in the second track, the rest of the album really doesn’t resemble any of my expectations.

None of this is to say that "Reign Dance" is a bad album. As far as hard rock goes, it’s not bad. Though the guitar work isn’t as stellar as that of the aficionados in the field, both Candelario and backup guitarist Woody Sebastian offer acoustic and electric riffs that are a pleasing mix of blues, funk, and chugging southern rock. If you like classic bands like Black Sabbath and ZZ Top, a strange mix I know, then you’ll probably also like the music found here.

As expected, the guitar work is the real showcase of the album, but Doug Fisichella does a decent job with the drums as well, even if he’s a bit too fond of snare and cymbals. Having said that, there is a misstep in "Snake In The Grass," where guitar and drums are each playing a different tempo, and the vocals have to rush to catch up. It’s hard to say where the fault lies, but it’s a noticeable error.

The only quibble with the guitar work is in the tune "Temperamental." Here, the amp is obviously turned up way too high, because just as in Extreme’s "More Than Words," you can hear every single fret slide, and even a few times that a string isn’t held down tightly, resulting in that plunking sound we amateur guitarists know all too well. Since this is the only instrumental piece on the album, these minor errors stand out more than if they had vocals to help disguise them.

Speaking of vocals, while this isn’t exactly a guitar album, it does share the unfortunate tendency of just plain bad vocals. Sure, plenty of hard rock singers sing from the throat rather than the diaphragm, but especially with male vocalists, they shoot for either gritty, raspy sounds or screeching hard rock wails – something that would have been ideal in this case with all the "Wales" references.

But even though vocals are provided by all the players, no one actually has any chops that impress. They’re not off key, thankfully, but they’re too throaty, too garage band sounding, and too amateurish. If Candelario wanted to include vocals on "Reign Dance," he’d have been better off rounding up a studio singer to do the job rather than relying on guys who obviously only know strings and drums.

The standout track here is "C.O.S.," mainly because the vocals here are pretty good, and the tune is solid, with no obvious errors. While the rest of the songs each offer something unique, and some glimpses of good quality workmanship, they just don’t mesh all the elements smoothly and consistently the entire way through. Overall, it makes for a somewhat disjointed album, but there’s still enough impressive guitar licks for enthusiasts to sink their teeth into.

Highs: Fun, upbeat guitar work on "Chainsaw Jane," and "C.O.S." is a solid tune overall.

Lows: Vocals are pretty weak and amateurish sounding overall, and there are one or two obvious missteps between drums and guitars.

Bottom line: A good effort that has appeal for fans of classic hard rock and southern styled guitars, as long as you don’t mind a few blatant errors.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)