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Bry Webb - Provider

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Artist: Bry Webb

Album: Provider

Label: Idée Fixe

Review date: Oct. 17, 2012

The conventional music journalist shorthand for the Canadian indie quintet The Constantines was always “Springsteen-meets-Fugazi,” and while that was a bit lazy, it was not without merit. A band in the truest sense of the word, The Constantines were possessed of a group dynamic that, particularly live, was downright inspiring, and could recall that D.C. ensemble at their most commanding. At the same time, the band had a blue-collar charm that burned its brightest in brawny anthems that would indeed make the Boss smile. The Cons could be at once brooding and hopeful, joyous and gritty.

De facto frontman Bry Webb’s debut solo full-length, Provider, is far quieter and more sonically delicate, almost disarmingly so, than what the Cons were best known for, yet Webb still wrestles with a similar emotional dichotomy. And though the approach to that struggle might be a bit more sage thanks to age and experience, it’s really no less intense.

There’s not a lot of Fugazi here (at least on a surface level), but it’s hard to completely escape that Springsteen comparison. Everything from the album’s forthright title to the raw tales of coming into one’s own as a man to the windswept (Canadian) heartland backdrop harkens to Springsteen in his more contemplative moments. Yet, lest this review appear lazy, it should be made clear that Provider is far from unthinking mimicry. When Webb sings in his deep, languid voice “I heard them say / he’s no provider / he can’t stand beside her, no way. / It’s not a sad song. / Prove them wrong,” he is asserting himself — as a man, a husband and an artist. Songs such as “Rivers of Gold” and “Asa” are personal and honest but never embarrassingly so. And while the overall acoustic, roots-driven feel here is perhaps more hushed than what fans of “Young Lions” and “Nighttime Anytime” might be secretly pining for, those very fans should take comfort in the familiar lyrical themes and melodic resolution of tracks such as “Ex-Punks” and “Undertaker,” motifs that are as much a testament to Webb’s identity as a songwriter as they are a lingering reference point to his old band.

The Constantines never got their due, especially in the U.S., and Provider isn’t necessarily going to settle old scores. Its a notable release, though, both as a new work by a talented singer-songwriter and as one of what one can only hope will be several satisfying postscripts in the narrative of a great band.

By Nate Knaebel

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