North of Northwest: Bry Webb – Provider
Bry Webb has been busy.
In the year or so since the Constantines announced their hiatus, their former lead singer has moved towns, changed jobs, had a son, toured with Dan Mangan and Feist, and oh yeah — recorded and released his debut solo album, Provider.
All this change will change a man, and the diary-like Provider reflects Webb’s new and shifting roles. The first song on the album addresses what is almost certainly the first thing on Webb’s mind: his new son. “Asa” is a heartfelt lullaby that marries the warm echoes of lap steel and a subtle island feel in the cadence of the vocals. “Carry on and play / Til the end of the day / I will carry you home.”
Also sweet to hear are loving references to Webb’s fellow Constantines in “Rivers of Gold” (“I was playing in a band / We had an understanding / Only we could understand”) and “Ex-Punks,” an intense, driving, beat-heavy song that both nods at Webb’s musical past and draws heavily from it.
For the most part, the material on Provider is more new father than Ex-Punk, simple and warm. It’s a logical move for Webb, who for several years has been mentioning in interviews his desire to write simpler and more character-driven songs. “Zebra” is a sympathetic portrait of sudden helplessness faced by a man used to being in control: “The engineer will face the world / in its material demanding / direct a hammer and a nail / with certain understanding … there’s no screw of desire / for an engineer in love.” Haunting, echoing upright bass tones permeate the appropriately dirge-like “Undertaker,” with its assertion that “I’m known by everyone” and its almost whispered refrain of “I will be standing by.”
Recorded live off the floor in just three or four days, Provider has a snapshot quality, capturing a man at a fleeting, frozen moment in time. We see Webb both as he was and as he starts to be. “I’m completely renewed and full of life,” he said in a recent interview. “I’m pursuing things with more energy [than] in years.” To find his new role both as and on Provider, Webb may have had to close some doors to the past, but here we see him fling wide new ones to the future. ____
Provider will be released November 15 on Idée Fixe records.