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Webb Wilder

Night Without Love – 2020 (Landslide)

Reviewed by Jim Hynes

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CDs by Webb Wilder

Mississippi veteran Webb Wilder presents a unique blend of rockabilly, outlaw country, rock n' roll, a little blues and, most importantly, an approach where he doesn't take himself too seriously. Wilder delivers his 11 tunes on his 11th album with a small cast of musicians, recording in George Bradfute's studio near Nashville, with Bradfute co-producing, recording and mixing.

Wilder's influences come not only from the South, but from English pub bands, writers of soul songs, Texas songwriters and virtually anything that moves him. That's part of what makes his music engaging. He's a moving target. For example, he opens with "Tell Me What's Wrong," originally recorded by English pub band The Inmates. He then turns to his Hattiesburg, Miss. buddy, R.S. Fields, for the country-flavored title track before moving into pure country on Chip Taylor's "Holding On to Myself," initially recorded by country artist Stoney Edwards, featuring stirring pedal steel from Bob Williams. Sandwiched between is "Hit the Nail on the Head," penned by Russell Smith (of The Amazing Rhythm Aces). Wilder goes mellow with David Hidalgo and Louis Perez's (Los Lobos) "Be Still."

Bradfute plays over a dozen instruments as Wilder plays guitars and percussion. Rick Schell has background vocals on four, all in the second half, and shares drumming duties with Jimmy Lester. Guitar standout Richard Bennett adds gut bucket guitar to the Los Lobos cover.

In the second half, we have mostly Wilder originals, all but one with co-writers. The evocative, melodic "Illusion of You" is with Joe V. McMahan, and the tremolo guitar driven "Buried Our Love" is with Field and Suzy Elkins, bandmates from his 1980s Texas band, The Drapes. The keyboard driven "Sweetheart Deal," a real standout, was penned with soul icon Dan Penn. On the punchy "Ache and Flake (Go With the Flow)," a rather typical Wilder discourse, bandmate Tom Comet assists in the writing. His own "The Big Deal" is a string caressed ballad and he closes with the classic Tommy Tucker "Hi Heel Sneakers." Somehow, it all flows wonderfully.