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Articles Home » 2016 Articles » Pawlak, Jace - 2016 Promise
Pawlak, Jace - 2016 Promise

ARTIST: Pawlak, Jace
ALBUM: Promise
LABEL: Kivel Records
YEAR: 2016


LINEUP: Jace Pawlak - vocals, keyboards, bass, drums * Dennis Pawlak - guitars * Trevor Pawlak - guitars

Additional Musicians: Pete Lents - lead vocals on tracks 06 and 09 * Eric Ragno - keyboards on tracks 01 and 04 * Jan Pawlak - bass on tracks 01 and 07 * Dominic Gaudious - lead guitar on track 08

TRACK LISTING: 01 Tonight Is Everything * 02 Before You Run * 03 Every Now And Then * 04 Too Late * 05 Trying Not To Love You * 06 Waiting * 07 Leap Of Faith * 08 Late On Loving You * 09 Can't Find Your Heart * 10 Nothing But Rain


WEBLINKS: Jace Pawlak FB Page

Even though I'm getting a lot better at knowing new albums that are scheduled for release, there are still some albums that sneak up on me and blow me away. This is one of them. Jason 'Jace' Pawlak isn't exactly new to the scene. He's written and co-written several songs for Kivel labelmates Farcry, Tango Down, and Goodbye Thrill. He's put out a handful albums of his own work the past decade, plus he's a performer at a popular Walt Disney World resort in Florida. He has quite the presence on YouTube as well, where he has numerous videos of himself reviewing albums both old and new, commenting on his own work, and sitting at a piano performing versions of hit songs. I've deduced that he's in his early 40s with musical tastes that are very similar to my own and an ability to write songs that match those tastes. Think artists like Foreigner, Night Ranger, Journey, Bad English, The Storm, Nelson, Dokken, Winger - you get the point. And he seems like a genuinely nice dude. I'd like to hang out with him and geek out over music. He wanted to record a high-quality album of his material, and he started a Kickstarter campaign to get it going. So what can we expect here?

The Songs
Pawlak has a voice that contains a fair amount of Rob Moratti (though not quite as smooth), Ted Poley (but not as quirky), John Waite, and Tony Lewis of The Outfield. Having said that, though, I do find it to be distinctive enough that I'd recognize it as his own. Except on the two tracks where his pal Pete Lents handles lead vocals. Seriously, I'd listened to the album well over a dozen times and didn't realize those tracks had a different singer until I saw it in another review (I was operating off a digital purchase until I actually ordered the physical CD - yeah, I double-purchased this one.). From what I can tell, Lents sings in a Genesis cover band but is not (yet) a well-known vocalist. If Lents is auditioning for his own album, well, I'd buy it if he's singing this kind of material. The production and mix are excellent. Ty Sims was co-producer along with Jace, and he mixed & mastered it. He produced last year's excellent House Of Lords album, so he knows how to twist the knobs and move the sliders to get a great sound. All vocals and instruments are just where they need to be in the mix, with a drum sound that certainly doesn't sound like it came from a machine. This sounds good.

But it's really about the songs, isn't it? You get ten really good ones here. Mostly about love, many in a major key, all with excellent lyrics. And the guitar solos (mostly provided by Jace's father Dennis) are totally on point - soaring, searing, and melodic, without being too flashy to overshadow the mood of the song. Opener 'Tonight Is Everything' sets the stage nicely, positive and upbeat. If I were a radio guy, I'd choose 'Before You Run' as the lead single (Jace himself agrees). It's just a fun, big-sounding rocker. If the second single would need to be a ballad, then 'Every Now And Then' would be a great choice. If 'Too Late' sounds like a cookie-cutter Frontiers uplifting anthem, well, Jace explains in a YouTube video why that is. Anyone who loves that type of song will enjoy it. 'Trying Not To Love You' is a song that I bet most of you would love. I have to mention the passion of Jace's drumming on this one, as it adds even more urgency to this tune. Pete Lents handles vocals on 'Waiting' (co-written with Tango Down guitarist Scott Miller), another song that has strong commercial appeal. The vocal layers on this one are quite amazing. 'Leap Of Faith' is a gorgeous ballad performed several years ago by Goodbye Thrill. I dare you not to love 'Late On Loving You', another song that epitomizes our beloved genre. Driven and urgent, it's a highlight among highlights. The breezy 'Can't Find Your Heart' would have fit nicely on the latest Rob Moratti album, with Lents providing another strong vocal performance. And if the first nine songs haven't convinced you, 'Nothing But Rain' is sure to win you over. First time I heard it, I suspected Jace of sneaking into the recording sessions for the new White Widdow album and stealing it from them. Turns out he wrote it two years ago for the last Tango Down album. It's probably best described as a 'heavy ballad', with excellent keyboard touches and stunning lead guitar work. Absolute killer track.

In Summary
Of all the new albums I've heard in the past decade, this is the one where the songs most sound like they came straight from the golden days of radio-friendly arena rock. And the excellent production gives it a sound that makes you believe that this type of music had never gone out of style. Many of us fantasize about being able to come up with catchy songs that remind us of a long-ago time; kudos to Jace Pawlak for pulling it off. I've given this over 20 spins so far, played back-to-back with albums I love from both present and past, and with the songs thrown into playlists with old and new favorites. This album definitely measures up to anything in my collection. For the obligatory 'if you like xxx, you'll like this' comparisons, I have to say this sounds a lot like Nelson meets The Storm, fitting solidly with the other classics of that era. If you want to go with newer artists, try White Widdow with a vocalist who sings in the timbre of Rob Moratti (well, maybe not quite as high). I suspect he's gonna get a lot more well-deserved attention after this fine effort. He considers himself more of a songwriter than performer, and sure hope I hear more songs like this not only on more (hopefully) of his own projects but also on those of other artists. Frontiers Records - take notice of this guy!

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#1 | gdazegod on September 03 2016 02:01:57
Jace Pawlak - 2016 Can't Find My Heart (Soundcloud)
#2 | Cimozzen on September 03 2016 03:54:22
I'll have to check this one out. Sample I heard was VERY promising!
#3 | gdazegod on September 03 2016 04:45:34
Ken, you can also check Jace's CD Baby page for this album, though the samples are very short.
#4 | gdazegod on September 03 2016 04:46:56
The Rob Moratti references are spot on Jeff.
#5 | george_the_jack on September 04 2016 13:05:04
Thanks for this one Jeff. Gonna have to check it out soon. The samples sound very promising. I also checked him out on YouTube. Apart from being an excellent pianist/musician, he does resemble Michael J Fox in ''Back to the future'' as well, which is something that adds some extra 80's feel to the whole thing! Good one clap
#6 | jeffrey343 on September 05 2016 05:16:11
GTJ - There was a kids show in the US several years ago (when my sons were young) called 'Blue's Clues'. Jace has a pretty strong resemblance to the main guy in that show. I didn't pick up the Michael J. Fox resemblance until you mentioned it - funny as BTTF is my favorite all-time movie. But definitely get this album. I can't stop playing it. And Jace is a really cool guy - we chatted on Facebook, and he really appreciates all the positive feedback he's getting.
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