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Musical Year in Review – May: Bry Webb / Free Will

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The month of May brought the world a new record from ex-Constantines front-man Bry Webb.  The first time I encountered Bry Webb he was the opening act for Feist at Massey Hall on her Metals tour. He ran through his supporting set sitting on a chair in the middle of the stage. The room was dead silent for the duration and it wasn’t until someone called out “What’s your name?” that he actually introduced himself. Such is the understated beauty of Bry Webb’s music.

Though Free Will does push Webb’s sound a little more toward his Constantines-era brashness with some added percussion and dissonant feedback loops, the record retains the relatively sedate style of his debut Provider. Once again, lightly picked acoustic guitar and sliding steel guitars lay the foundation for Webb’s acclaimed lyricism to come to the forefront.

Listen after listen it is lines like “we’ll dress only in linens, and make peace at our beginnings, and never damn a single thing” from Big Smoke or “how much free time do I need, to satisfy my love and me?” from What Party of You that stick with me.

They show a man wrestling with his choices, giving up life in an internationally-touring rock band in favour of life as a family man in Guelph, Ontario. Though it may seem Webb chose the simpler option, Free Will tells of the hidden intricacy and beauty of his new lifestyle. As he sings of the “days beyond the ordinary days” on the track Translator, it is evident that life is as complex as ever for Webb.

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