by Mark Anthony Brennan
Release Date: May 20th, 2014
Label: Idee Fixe Records
After spending ten years fronting a high-octane rock band like the Constantines it’s understandable that with his first solo effort Bry Webb would explore music at the other end of the spectrum. ‘Provider‘ offered up a collection of mellow folk songs, revealing the thoughts of a man coming to terms with being a father. On his second outing Webb shows no signs of changing his tune, quite literally. The album ‘Free Will‘ is again inspired by the musician’s son, Asa, which may well provide the artist the opportunity for some musing but it does not necessarily make for the best of musical outings.
Without doubt Webb is a talented lyricist. With a voice reminiscent of The National’s Matt Berninger he broods, sometimes quite darkly, about the world that he has brought his child into. As intriguing as this may be, his introspection is more in the way of personal observation than useful insight. The main problem here, however, is that lyrics alone do not make for a satisfactory listening experience.
The opening track “Fletcher” is a work of delicate beauty with its interplay of acoustic guitar, lap steel, pedal steel and hurdy gurdy. The next song “AM Blues” has a more rollicking beat, which is a nice change of pace. It also features a delicious burst of distorted guitar towards the end. Unfortunately, those two songs mark the album’s high point. After that the songs settle back into a near-slumber with very little change in tone from one track to the next. It leaves you craving any change in the rhythm and the instrumentation, which is a relief that never arrives until the album is technically over and the two bonus tracks begin.
Webb has proven himself as an accomplished singer/songwriter separate and apart from the Constantines, and there is nothing about ‘Free Will‘ that detracts from that. Indeed there are some marvellous individual moments on the album, but as a whole it is too much of an exercise in sameness to be considered a superior piece of work.