It’s reassuring to find that Sean Webster dedicates Leave Your Heart At The Door to his wife, because otherwise – boy, you’d think the guy had an unhappy love life. Or to put it rather differently, Webster specialises in dramatic monologues about heartache. Deceit, despondency, defeat – these themes are his stock in trade, lyrically.
But if that sounds a bit miserable, it should be said that Webster and his pals carry it all off marvellously. He has the happy knack of his setting these tales to melodies so natural that they sound like someone must surely have written them before.
The eleven tracks here come divided almost equally between soulful slowies and funkier, more upbeat tunes – for all that the words may sound pretty bleak across the piece.
|Sean Webster - sure got the blues|
So on the one hand we get a plaintive ballad like ‘Wait Another Day’, with its gentle arrangement and a soulful delivery. On the other there’s the melodic opener ‘Give Me The Truth’, with its “woah-oh-oh” vocal theme, a great blend of guitar and keys, and a tasteful guitar solo from Webster resolving neatly back into the melody. And there’s ‘You Got To Know’, with its rolling groove and surges of organ from guest keyboard player Bob Fridzema, who adds a few trills of adornment for good measure over the pushy drum rhythm from Joel Purkess. For once the lyric here is determined rather than desperate, the protagonist insisting on getting the girl to whom the song is addressed. Either way, Webster’s vocals sell the story in the rasping, emotional manner of Joe Cocker.
A couple of the more downbeat outings may not really hit the mark, but down the stretch the album really hits top gear. The brisk friends-and-lovers narrative of ‘You Can Say’ is reminiscent of Texas on a good day – although Webster sure is different from Sharleen Spiteri – and builds up to a repeated refrain before fading out.
The title track ‘Leave Your Heart At The Door’ ups the ante in the manner of a top drawer Deacon Blue ballad. It’s a cautionary tale about the emotional upheavals that await in adulthood, fatalistic about life’s ups and downs – mostly downs – with some nice chiming guitar lines.
Which just leaves the closing double whammy of ‘I Don’t Wanna Talk About It’ and ‘Til’ The Summer Comes Around’. The former has an insistent groove and great melody, especially on the chorus, and musically could easily be taken for a steamy booty call song. Lyrically though, this duet with PennyLeen Krebbers has the air of a bedtime conversation in the dark between a couple where the girl has just confessed she’s met someone else. Dark stuff it’s true, but it doesn’t half develop some rousing momentum. Album closer ‘Til’ The Summer Comes Around’ meanwhile, is an exquisite reading of Keith Urban’s narrative of young love and estrangement, wistful in the manner of Springsteen’s ‘Sandy’, and with an excellent guitar solo to boot. Suffice to say it became a favourite of my other half when we caught the Sean Webster Band supporting King King on their recent Netherlands tour.
If you like a bit of bluesy soulfulness, delivered with conviction and great musicianship, Leave Your Heart At Door will surely fit the bill. Just keep the Kleenex handy.
Leave Your Heart At The Door was released on 24 February 2017.