May 20, 2014 - Idee Fixe
There’s a freedom offered when one strikes out on his own. No longer writing parts distinct for each band member to play, a solo artist has the ability to focus in on the song craft itself, and worry less about the arrangement. It’s no surprise, then, that most solo artists tend to take a step back and focus more on traditional songwriting. Bry Webb’s sophomore solo album fits the bill. Free Will is a stripped down continuation of Provider: a collection of acoustic based songs with nods to early Americana and country music. At their core, picked-out, slow-burn tracks like “Big Smoke” evoke Tin Pan Alley structure as much as they do Webb’s previous band, Constantines, and fans of the latter will find root in the quick-step shuffle of “AM Blues” and the bluesy waltz of “Policy.” Free Will is better defined, however, in a more direct approach to writing evident in the melodies and lyrics and the spaces that hang between notes that weave the tracks together. There’s a risk taken, though, in stripping down one’s sound. Take away too many of the ticks that made an artist compelling, and one’s songwriting has to stand strong enough on it’s own. An exercise in simplicity, Free Will’s one critique is at times feeling too simple. Given enough time, though, and a quiet enough room, the beauty in the music comes through strong, and second listens let the lyrics ring truer.