Webster Avenue – Daylight
14 songs – 53 minutes
Daylight is the debut album from Webster Ave, a trio of industry veterans, all from the North East of the U.S.A. All three have long and impressive résumés, having played with the likes of Otis Rush, Otis Blackwell, Bob Dylan, Michael Monroe and Bette Midler. As a result, and as one might expect, a confident aura of quality and sophistication emanates from every track on the album.
The band comprises David Webster on guitars, banjo (on “Heaven Knows”) and lead vocals; Tony Mercadante on bass, piano, synth and backing vocals; and Andrew Caturano on drums, percussion and backing vocals. The core trio are supplemented on various tracks by Benny Harrison and Matt Detroy on keyboards; Joe Meo on saxophone and clarinet and Jamie Finigan on trumpet; and Lissie Newman on backing vocals.
The songs on Daylight primarily sit within the genres of rock and pop, with hints of soul, jazz, R&B, funk and even some reggae thrown in. The horns (arranged by Joe Meo) are used sparingly and to good effect, adding real depth to the funk-rock of “Ain’t That A Shame” and the acoustic jazz of “Whenever”, which has some lovely clarinet from Meo.
Webster sings in a light, clear tenor voice and is a fine guitar player, moving adroitly between acoustic finger-picking on ballads like “To Be A Child”, raucous electric slide guitar (on the opening rocker “This Angry World”) and standard electric guitar. He is also a smart song-writer (he wrote 13 of the tracks on Daylight himself, and co-wrote the reggae-pop of “Ronnie O”, with Mercadante), with clear influences taken from some of the great rock and pop writers of the 1970s. Mercadante and Caturano are an equally impressive rhythm section, equally at home on the pop-rock of “Bad Thing”, the Eagles-style ballad “Never Tender Your Goodbyes” (with some gorgeous echoing slide guitar from Webster) or the bluesy shuffle of the title track.
There is something that is reminiscent of Toto or the Alan Parsons Project in the way the musicians wear their technical virtuosity so lightly on well-written pop songs, but also in the maturity and calm of their playing. At times this can have the effect of mitigating the emotional impact of the song, so that there is no sense of danger in the ostensibly threatening lyrics of “Bad Thing” (although Webster does pull out a killer guitar solo), nor is there any sense of true heartbreak in the hard-luck love song of “My Poor Heart”. The title track comes closest to blues, but again the effect is diluted by (very impressive) vocal harmonies that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Steely Dan album.
Indeed, there is not a whole lot of blues on display on Daylight, but it is an enjoyable album of pop-rock songs, played with impressive technical prowess and expertly produced.