Webb, Bry: Run With Me LP
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In the fall of 2013 Bry Webb was putting the finishing touches on his second album "Free Will". Released on May 20th 2014, Bry, with his newly assembled band The Providers, spent the following few years traversing North America playing clubs, festivals and storied stages such as Toronto’s Massey Hall. Nothing new for an artist who had spent the aughts in a constant state of motion with Constantines, a band who on average had performed one of every three nights on a stage somewhere in the world. In fact, running in parallel to Bry’s solo touring schedule was a reunion with his former Constantines’ bandmates to once again present their incendiary live show and celebrate the 11th anniversary reissue of the band’s "Shine A Light". It is what happened as the decade wound down that seemed out of character for an artist who had spent close to 20 years immersed in the studio and on the stage: the music stopped altogether. Bry explains his feelings at that time, “I lost the musical plot about 5 years ago and stopped playing music entirely, sold instruments and recording equipment, and committed myself to the idea that I was absolutely done”. Webb dedicated himself to his ongoing work in community radio, months turned to years and musical life seemed to be all but gone from view.
Now in an unexpected turnaround 10 years on from the recording of his last studio album, there is not only a return to the stage for Bry but also a new record. Primarily composed in a season of upheaval, "Run With Me" contains some of Bry’s rawest sentiments. Fresh and painfully present there is an immediacy one can hear as emotional walls collapse in real time. Bry explains the context of the album’s creation:
“In early 2023 my personal life exploded. In the process of dealing with that, I started writing music again and started recording at home. Advised that I needed to figure out how to ask for, and accept, help from other people, I sent early recordings of songs to friends from twenty-five years of music making - many folks I hadn’t connected with in years - and asked if they’d contribute anything to the songs. People came through in ways that overwhelmed me to the point that I cried when I wrote out the list of players for the liner notes. I felt incredibly cared for. From Andy Magoffin, who recorded the first Constantines album in 1999, to members of the Cons, to my nieces Addy and Ella playing drums, and a doppler recording of my daughter’s heartbeat, the record is a document of my creative life, and the people who made it possible to make music again.”
If the cover of "Run With Me" looks familiar, it is with full intent. The album’s technicolor marbling and die cut text serve to signal the inclusion of the album in a trilogy started with Bry’s first record "Provider". Just as that album starts with the track "Asa", this new one introduces itself with the instrumental "Webb". The trilogy is now completed with his daughter's first, middle and last names represented as the first tracks on each of the three albums.
While the LP’s package signals its place in the collection, and tracks such as "Older Than The Dirt" and "What I Do" revisit their predecessor’s familiar sonic starkness, "Run With Me" is the outlier of the trio. A number of new tracks forego the quietude of "Provider" and "Free Will", clearly recalling the rallying rhythms of Constantines’ anthems. "Thunder Bay" (instrumental backing courtesy of The Harbourcoats circa 2009), with its insistent kick drum and wall of electrics, support one of Webb’s most indelible melodies, and the not so subtly psychedelic "Modern Mind" reveal an expansion of Webb’s palette. Perhaps the furthest afield is the contextual centerpiece of the album, "Goodbye", where we not only hear a joyful voice that lay dormant for years, but hear it reclaim its power. Backed by Constantines’ Will Kidman, Doug MacGregor and Dallas Wehrle, Bry belts out “I’m through with all the rage, now watch the light pour out of me.”
As with all of Bry’s work, "Run With Me’s" lyrics take their time to settle in. Songs of self-examination, reconfigured love ballads, and songs for those who work to help others. Songs of singing abound. It’s there in "Older Than The Dirt’s" second verse: "Logic to the last intention, logic in the way we kept holding on forever, singing as the floor- was swept”, ten thousand birds sing a warning song in 'Thunder Bay' and again in Goodbye’s telling of a cathartic return to one’s true self with its celebration of those “Who sing - sing all joy - all joy of language, in a single word”. Joining Bry in singing "Run With Me’s" songs of “death, transition and hope,” are kindred spirits Jennifer Castle, Julie Doiron, Daniel Romano and Steph Yates. All of these singers elevate the album’s healing sentiments and help express the album’s central plea; a prayer of sorts wrapped in the traditional Scottish Gaelic melody of "She Is Here’s" second verse: “Let the sun rise in the morning and any witness bring. Let all the blooming cosmos teach us to sing”.