Bry Webb – ‘Free Will’

Review by John Acres

Bry Webb could easily rest on his indie-rock laurels: he could perpetually recombine his past work; perform scraps of Constantines’ songs solo to a volley of “woots” and “owwooos”; include so many members of his other band that it is essentially that band; take right artistic turns in an attempt to avoid the beloved sound that he helped craft, gutting his music so much of himself that it’s somebody else; and go back-to-basics in that way that has become the default setting of GarageBand® sessions everywhere—but Webb hasn’t done any of that. If you don’t understand what a big deal that is, you have never felt the pull of being a big fish in a small pond off the 401. No one wants to tell Webb he’s done a bad job—bands like The Constantines are a rarity in Canada and we can’t be seen disparaging our champions of good taste and hardcore roots. What’s more, is that everyone who knows who Webb is and has enjoyed his music wants to be his friend. With the artistic odds stacked against him, Webb has recorded an innovative, soulful, and sincere record that is a worthy entry into the annals of Canadian music and its place on the international stage (it was recently featured online by the New York Times). Webb’s Free Will stands alone. Up yours, Bry.

Also on this record are two artists of note that I am also not friends with, but have had the pleasure of seeing perform: unsung songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Rich Burnett; and an actual musical genius, Ben Grossman, on his medieval “box of pain,” an arcane instrument called the hurdy gurdy.