14 songs – 46 minutes
Webb Wilder, has been producing intelligent, catchy roots-based rock’n’roll for decades. Long based in Nashville, his latest release, Mississippi Moderne, is a delightful homage to his original state and his early influences. The album manages the impressive feat of acknowledging the past whilst remaining utterly up to date. With large dollops of blues, country and rockabilly, plus some soul and even some British rock, the end result is a distinctive musical gumbo that offers something for everyone to enjoy.
The album is nicely book-ended by two versions of “Stones In My Passway”, a Webb original that nods towards the Robert Johnson classic of the same name while adding an early gospel edge. The first is a 30 second acapella snippet on which Webb sounds as old as Methuselah. The second version adds a driving train-like rhythm to the same vocal line. In between, there is the country ballad, “I’m Not Just Anybody’s Fool”, a driving reboot of the Kinks’ “I Gotta Move”, savage re-interpretations of Conway Twitty’s “Lonely Blues Boy”, Charlie Rich’s “Who Will The Next Fool Be?”, Frankie Lee Sims’ “Lucy Mae Blues” (sounding almost techno) and Otis Rush’s “It Takes Time” (sounding very unlike Rush, but with a gorgeous guitar solo from Bob Williams). There’s also Jimmy Reed’s “I’m Gonna Get My Baby”, played straighter than Reed would have done, with haunting, echoed slide guitar adding a tremolo-like effect.
Wilder’s own songs sit easily alongside these classics. The retro-rock of “Rough And Tumble Guy” is played with wild abandon while the Stones-esque “Too Much Sugar For A Nickel” takes a phrase Wilder picked up from his mother (when something was too good to be true) and is a beautifully crafted song of unrequited love: “There ain’t no substitute baby, for a good-hearted man. I don’t think he’s the one, but maybe I am. Too much sugar for a nickel. Too good to be true. Call off the deal if you feel that it ain’t sweet enough for you.”
Wilder is primarily backed by his long-standing road band of Bob Williams on guitar, bassist Tom Comet and Jimmy Lester on drums. Guests on various tracks include guitarists Joe V. McMahan and George Bradfute; drummer Greg Morrow; percussionists Jon Radford and Bryan Owings, Micah Mulscher on piano and organ; and Patrick Sweany, Ann McCrary and Regina McCrary on backing vocals.
With witty, clever lyrics (that often contain unexpected moments of pathos or heart-touching sensitivity), well-constructed songs, a willingness to trample over perceived genre boundaries, and a distinctive vocal style, Wilder has hints of the likes of Bill Carter or John Hiatt while still remaining very much his own man. This is mature music that does not let the intelligence behind the songs get in the way of deep emotion that is on display on every track.
Mississippi Moderne is a very impressive roots rock album with plenty of blues influences. It is a very modern release that warmly embraces the influences that touched it. Top notch stuff.