My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Dan Seals – ‘Walking The Wire’

The 1990s were a period in which Dan Seals saw a rapid decline in his commercial appeal. He began the decade strongly enough with two # hits: “Love On Arrival” and “Good Times”, but none of his subsequent releases managed to crack the Top 40. A change in record labels did not help to reverse the trend; he signed with Warner Bros. in 1991 and released his first album for the label the following year. Walking The Wire became his first album not to chart since Harbinger, which had been released a decade earlier, prior to his commercial breakthrough. But despite its lack of commercial success, Walking The Wire is a solid set of songs and one of the better albums in the Seals discography.

Things got off to a rocky start with his first single for his new label, a Jesse Winchester tune called “Sweet Little Shoe”, which was released in 1991, in advance of the album. An overproduced number designed to cash in on the then-popular line dancing craze, it died a quick and well deserved death on the charts. Peaking at a meager #62, it is easily the worst song on the album. The follow-up single “Good Goodbye” did not chart and was not included on the album when Walking The Wire was released the following year. The self-penned “Mason Dixon Line”, which examines a relationship between two very different people, fared a little better. It reached #43, but deserved to chart higher, as it is a decent song. Andrea Zonn, who played in Vince Gill’s road band at the time, plays fiddle on the track. The catchy “When Love Comes Around The Bend” was released next. Written by Josh Leo, Pam Tillis, and Mark Wright, the tune had been a minor success for Juice Newton a few years earlier. While her version managed to crack the Top 40 (just barely), Seals’ version only climbed to #51. This one might have enjoyed more success if it had been released a few years earlier before his career lost its momentum. The final single was another Seals composition, the well-meaning but somewhat preachy “We Are One”, which appeals to mankind to put aside religious, ethnic and racial differences. It did not chart.

The remaining songs on the album tend to be rather low-key, tastefully produced affairs. I particularly like “A Good Rain”, which is about a farmer struggling to make ends meet, and “Slower”, a tune written by Tony Arata about young love. The Parker McGee-penned “Someone Else’s Dance” is also quite good. “Sneaky Moon” is enjoyable, but I prefer the Tanya Tucker version that appeared a year later.

I wasn’t familiar with any of the songs on this album prior to preparing for this review, and as a hitless collection that appeared as Dan’s major label career was beginning to wind down, I expected it to be a dull and lifeless affair. I was, however, quite pleasantly surprised and I’m at a loss to explain why it was such a commercial disaster. Perhaps Seals didn’t get the proper level of promotion from his new label, or perhaps at age 44 he was considered to be past his peak in an era that saw a lot of new and younger talent emerge. Regardless of the reason, it’s unfortunate that it didn’t receive more love from radio and retail. It is available very inexpensively from Amazon and despite a few missteps, is well worth the modest investment.

Grade: B+

4 responses to “Album Review: Dan Seals – ‘Walking The Wire’

  1. luckyoldsun August 20, 2012 at 9:15 am

    As noted, there was a sea chang in commercial country at the time, where artists like Dan and Earl Conley and John Conley and the Oak Ridge Boys, etc., were essentially kicked out to make room for Garth and Clint and Travis Tritt and lesser stars like Joe Diffie, Mark Chesnutt, etc.

    Still, it is somewhat remarkable that after enjoying two No. 1 hits off of “On Arrival,” Seals’ very next album failed to chart at all–and that was back when the Billboard country chart had something like 75 albums.
    Partly, it may be attributable to the fact that Seals was never much of an album seller to start with. Even when he was having a string of No. 1 hits, only one of his albums managed to even go gold. (Not counting a greatest hits album.)

  2. Michelle August 20, 2012 at 8:30 pm

    I love Tanya’s version of “Sneaky Moon”

  3. Dodge R/T August 20, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    Good, honest review of Dan Seals’ most underrated album, IMHO. I remember one of the local powerhouse stations playing “Mason Dixon Line” (one of my top 5 favorite Dan Seals songs) and “When Love Comes Around The Bend” in regular rotation in 1992.

    I’m assuming WB gave up on this album pretty early, as I recall seeing it in bargain bins in late 1992 – early 1993.

    • luckyoldsun August 21, 2012 at 12:24 am

      At the time, WB had both Randy Travis and Travis Tritt–both of whom were selling multi-platinum back then. Obviously, this album was zero priority for the label.

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