ALBUM REVIEW: Bry Webb - Provider

Provider takes about as long to draw people’s attention as it would take a small crowded room of people to notice the smoke from a recently lit cigarette. In seconds heads are turning, and like that smoke the songs drift about and gracefully swirl around the room surrounding and affecting everyone. It’s difficult to get a grasp on them; the melodies and rhythms are so slight it’s impossible for an ear to become attached before they’ve floated on. Bry Webb’s voice is very distinct and it weaves about the room like a specter, seemingly coming from all directions. His coarse, raspy tone is assured and firm -- he could just as easily be singing a song to a friend as he could a foe, or perhaps to the oncoming stars of a dry, lonely February sun set.

Albums like this always raise the question of what is art to its creator? Hemingway used to scoff when people read into hidden meanings is his books. To him, The Old Man And The Sea was a simple story about a man and a fish, nothing more. To an average listener, Provider could just be some simple songs about even simpler times, but great art is layered beyond even the artists’ imagination. By doing away with the frivolities present in most forms of music, Bry Webb has sculpted an album that is totally naked, but pure and concrete. He will never be accused of indulgence, and by chipping away and stripping these songs to their complete base he has almost done the critics’ job for them, presenting a piece of music with no secrets.

For me, the pinnacle of this album is Undertaker, which is lyrically brilliant. Webb takes on the character of a nameless undertaker, musing about his position in the community and how he eventually gets to know everyone, developing in a darkly humorous manner to a point where Webb slowly repeats to his future friends “I will be standing by..”.

Webb has always been an expert at saying a lot with very little, and his voice always carried a power that naturally soared over the distorted guitars of The Constantines; yet on Provider, with a softer delivery and hardly anything behind it, we glimpse a vulnerable side of Webb -- a man strong is his convictions but hesitant in his voice, telling stories to no one and everyone. He is a man reflective on a time hardly lived and hopeful for a future barely conceived. A simple man singing simple songs in a complicated world, but packaged in a way that appeals to the brightest of minds, or any of the dull stones it took to sharpen it.

 - Josh "Pinky" Pothier

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