Last year, someone had the brilliant idea to slow down a Justin Bieber song to 1/8 of its normal speed. The result was a beautiful soundscape, similar to those intentionally created by the Icelandic band Sigur Rós. However, slowing the tempo or eliminating feedback and crashing symbols doesn’t always result in such a transformation. Sometimes you can do all of that and still make intense music with a sense of immediacy. Which is the case with Bry Webb’s new album Provider.
In his past life, Bry Webb fronted the band The Constantines, a Toronto group that sounded like they could have been a part of the early 90’s Dischord Records scene in Washington D.C. Now, though, Webb is a married man and a father. And that’s where his priorities are. When The Constantines broke up in 2010, Webb took to working construction jobs, forgoing the music world completely. However, a call from fellow Canadian Fiest, requesting that Webb provide a guest vocal on her new album got him going again. Then, another offer from Fiest to open for her on her latest tour had Webb’s label put out his finished recordings in two months flat.
There is no mistaking Provider for anything other than an album by the former frontman of the Constantines even though sonically, it doesn’t sound a thing like the passionate fury of Webb’s old band. The commonality between Provider and Webb’s former work — and what Feist must have heard as well — is Webb’s singular voice, which conveys as much emotion hushed as it does turned up to eleven.
The opening track “Asa” was written for his son of the same name and is a gorgeous countrified lullaby showcasing Webb’s vocals with just a minimal amount of guitar and bass thrown in. It may be an odd reference, but “Asa” has that same haunted feeling as The Edge’s “Van Diemen’s Land” on Rattle and Hum. “Rivers of Gold” is another beauty centered around Webb’s vocals and some tasteful slide guitar work. There are few drums on Provider but they’re hardly missed.
Every once in a while, that Constantines’ bombast begins to erupt, like on the songs “Zebra” and the appropriately titled, “Ex Punks.” But just as suddenly as the fury begins to emerge, Webb taps it back down again, like he remembered his son was napping in the room next to him. In a way, Provider is not a great departure from Too Slow for Love, a low-key best of collection that the Constantines put out near the end of their run. The surprising thing here is that Webb was seemingly ready to walk away from the music world in such an absolute manner. Luckily for us he didn’t.
Bry Webb – Viva