Thursday, July 25, 2019

Sean Webster Band - Three Nights Live

More people should know about Sean Webster. More people should be listening to him. More people should be going to see him. It’s as simple as that.  And his new live album Three Nights Live underlines the singular quality of a soul-blues sound that deserves more attention.
Now when I say soul-blues, I don’t mean Stax horns.  And12-bar action isn’t the primary focus either.  But what the hell else can you call it when the guy sings like Joe Cocker, his songs are high on emotional content - generally located at the dark end of the street, to quote the James Carr song – and his guitar playing enhances the intense mood?
This is not throwaway stuff. Take his cover of John Mayer’s ‘Slow Dancing In A Burning
Sean Webster - hear him now
Room’, which comes along three songs in.  A subtle ballad, it weighs in at ten and a half minutes, but it’s so engrossing that the time passes easily.  It opens with mesmerising guitar on the intro, building tension before floating into the body of the song, on which Webster and his band contrive to create an intense atmosphere.  It helps, of course, that as a singer Sean Webster could wipe the floor with Mayer’s airy efforts every day of the week and twice on Sundays.  But it also reflects some guitar playing with real purpose, adding fuel to the song over washes of organ from Hilbrand Bos, and even including a neat little snippet of the melody from Stevie Wonder’s ‘Isn’t She Lovely’ as a cherry on top.
The album opens ‘Give Me The Truth’ and ‘Hands Of Time’, both taken from Webster’s last album Leave Your Heart At The Door, and both with the energy to give momentum to the album.  The former has a strong melody, to which Webster brings a typically expressive vocal, augmented by some “woah-oh-oh” harmonising, while an excellent guitar solo builds suspense as it weaves around the melody.  ‘Hand Of Time’ then reinforces the impression that Webster knows how to write a damn fine tune, as the patient, pulsing beat and throbbing guitar on the intro lead towards a hook to be savoured.
‘Slow Dancing In A Burning Room’ then kicks off a run of four tracks in a similar mode.  And if I have a gripe at this point it’s that four songs on the trot about heartache and pain, ranging from seven to over ten minutes, is a little bit much.  Not that they’re bad in themselves – though I think he has stronger songs in his locker than the last of them, ‘Don’t Feel The Same’ – but for me a shorter, snappier affair in the middle would have been good to cleanse the palate.  Try writing a funky little number about going on holiday with the missus, eh Sean?
But I digress.  ‘Heart Still Bleeds’ is a strong song does have a laid-back intro, and some bright chord sequences, and you might even call the tune jaunty if it wasn’t the backdrop to more emotional turmoil in the lyric.  And there’s no arguing with a guitar solo that soars and changes pace, over shuffling drums, en route to an immaculate, attention-holding ending.  ‘Hear Me Now’, meanwhile, is probably as bluesy as the album gets, with a halting, hesitant
Songs from the dark end of the street
rhythm that echoes the doubts in the mind of the character in the song.  It also displays excellent dynamics as the intensity rises and falls, with a rousing ending on which Webster’s voice rides the mounting tension.  And if I don’t find ‘Don’t Feel The Same’ so interesting melodically, it still has a tasteful, elegiac organ solo from Bos, and a stylish guitar solo built around a repeated motif, before gliding down to a delicate ending.
‘The Mayor’ does bring a shift in mood, a driving affair with a tough riff, that’s kept crisp, and provides a breather before they tackle Keith Urban’s ‘’Til Summer Comes Around’, also previously included on Leave Your Heart At The Door.  It has a loooong intro, that starts quietly then picks up and recedes again, as a precursor to an evocative song with a restrained arrangement that puts Webster’s voice well to the fore as the lyrics paint a vivid, melancholy picture.
They go out in more upbeat fashion, with the funky, high stepping ‘Highway Man’ the set closer, and then the encore of ‘You Got To Know’, which rides along on a swinging beat from drummer Ruud Gielen and walking bass from Floris Poesse, with Webster adding some chiming, funky guitar and a breezy solo, to deliver a satisfying finish.
Mixed and mastered by House Of Tone knob-twiddler Wayne Proctor, a man who knows a bit about soulful grooves, the sound is clear and unfussy, letting the quality of the performance shine through.  Three Nights Live is a treat.  It captures an artist of real substance, with his own distinctive vibe.   If you’re a fan of smouldering, soulful blues, then this is for you. 

Three Nights Live is released on 2 September, and available for pre-order now.

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