Baptized in the Rio Grande

Razor & Tie
rating icon 7 / 10

Track listing:

01. Never Bury the Hatchet
02. Pull it and Fire
03. Baptized in the Rio Grande
04. Nothing King
05. The Vestryman
06. Blameshift
07. Breathing Through My Wounds
08. Morals of the Helpless Kind
09. Drag the Blade
10. September
11. Texas Trim

In less than two years since forming, SONS OF TEXAS are steadily working their way through the mainstream rock sector. Their debut album "Baptized in the Rio Grande" has all the staples of a successful contemporary hard rock album, which is good for making a quick strike impression upon their AOR-targeted audience. That being said, the appeal of "Baptized in the Rio Grande" is limited mostly to this demographic. SONS OF TEXAS are about melodic agro rock, employing a little bit of SEVENDUST plus a little bit of BLACK LABEL SOCIETY, DROWNING POOL and NONPOINT. Produced by Josh Wilbur (LAMB OF GOD, GOJIRA),"Baptized in the Rio Grande" is a professional, if predictable newcomer's howdy yielding a couple of cool surprises along the way.

SONS OF TEXAS goes for broke out the gate with rat-a-tat breakdown grooves on the uber-loud "Never Bury the Hatchet". A speedy pickup into a short guitar solo by Jes De Hoyos being one of the better touches to an obvious agro stomper, the band gives vocalist Mark Morales a fuming platform to bark over. Changing methods on the tough guy anthem "Pull it and Fire", Morales woofs about drinking to escape the grind of life. Is he talking about fatherhood when nattering, "It's twelve a.m. and my boys are fast asleep, but I don't need 'em at all?" If so, any parent can relate to the wish to break free from obligation and get lost for a bit, even if the sentiment here rings more of slacker than escapist. Interestingly, SONS OF TEXAS flips the whole thing with a more sympathetic view of a struggling single mother with their well-done power ballad, "September".

The swaying hard rock groove of the title track is the expected blend of acoustic leads into punchy verses, whammy chords, drifting guitar sails and swelling choruses as the band throws a little Tex-Mex salute to their native turf. "Nothing King", however, has serious bite with a killer tempo from Mike Villareal and a great set of gnawing riffs. Later in the album, the boogied-down rawker "Morals of the Helpless Kind" becomes a bombshell mosher with the album's quickest groove and fiercest chorus — this, following the soulful ballad "Breathing Through My Wounds", one of album's most affecting tracks.

Along the way are standard heavy rockers like "Drag the Blade", "Blameshift" and "The Vestryman", the latter of which at least has a slick bass jive going for it. "Texas Trim" is SONS OF TEXAS' modernized, cock-rocking attempt to mimic ZZ TOP's slickster serenades about vagina. It doesn't work. SONS OF TEXAS only sound like desert horndogs instead of tube snake boogie brothers. All lead to predictable pumping choruses, which is the main drag to "Baptized in the Rio Grande".

SONS OF TEXAS' songs are tightly wound, kept to the efficient side and sharply produced by Josh Wilbur. For a young band together for such a short time, it's remarkable how much SONS OF TEXAS have it down pat. Most of what they do is safe 'n snug, but there's an appreciable blast or two of danger to "Baptized in the Rio Grande", making it a better ride than most of its competition.

Author: Ray Van Horn, Jr.
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