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Wilder Woods from the album FEVER/SKY
Wilder Woods (from the album FEVER/SKY on Dalton Records) (by Lee Zimmerman)
Wilder Woods, the alter ego for Bear Rinehart, otherwise known as the frontman for the band NEEDTOBREATHE, opts for a hiatus from his day job and a decidedly change of tone with a new solo album that takes him well beyond the realms of his regular gig. As such, it represents a significant departure that allows him to explore his own possibilities without being tied to his band’s general dynamic.
That said, the emotive overtones aren’t altogether unexpected. NEEDTOBREATHE is a stirring ensemble after all, and FEVER/SKY suggests that Woods still had those impulses to draw from even while going out on his own. The overarched ballad “Heartland,” the assertive rocker “Criminal,” the dramatic delivery given “Wish It Was Mine,” and the determined drive that propels “Get It Back” all suggest that Woods used the opportunity afforded by the isolation forced by the pandemic to exorcise some personal priorities. It’s not all angst-infused however; the upbeat and effusive “Maestro (Tears Don’ Lie)” and the soulful strut that informs “Be Yourself” show that he has both the drive and desire to connect with an audience all on his own.
If anything, FEVER/SKY is a mostly accessible album, one that conforms to a modern rock template. The agitated and somewhat intense “Be the Man” and the dramatic delivery afforded “Death of Me” prove the point, each being examples of a conventional arena anthem. Woods has enough intensity and agitation to stir the senses and in that regard, grab attention, even at the outset.
Given that emphatic impression, one has to wonder if FEVER/SKY is merely a momentary detour or part of a continuing pursuit destined to take him further from his band buddies while giving him the additional encouragement needed to go solo full-time. Only time will tell of course, but in the meantime, Woods/Rinehart clearly shows all the confidence needed to go wherever his muse may lead him. (By Lee Zimmerman)
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