Self release [Release date January 2015]
There appears to be two contradictory messages on the cover of Sean Webster’s new ‘See It Through’ album.
Firstly there’s the apparent throwaway message on his T shirt: ‘Don’t Be careless, just care less’ – which seems to suggest he’s letting go emotionally. Then there’s the album title itself, which has a positive mission statement that suggests the opposite. On balance his commitment wins through on an album that sometimes flatters to deceive.
It’s little over a decade since Sean’s debut ‘Long Time Coming’ and the near break-through album ‘If Only’. Given the intervening years, the former title turned out to be prophetic, as it’s taken his return from several years in Australia, before he’s finally found his feet.
Either way, it’s great to see the return of both the talented vocalist Sean Webster and guitarist/producer Ash Wilson, once of that that fine Skegness band The Melt.
On paper it looks a winning combination, but the in truth the album only sparks intermittently, mainly because of contradictory goals. While Webster seems naturally drawn to slow building ballads, producer Wilson consistently focuses his attention on resolving climactic solos. The net result is a number busy tracks that don’t allow the songs to breathe and pay due attention to Sean’s voice.
That said, there’s still plenty to admire here. ‘The Mayor’ is a grungy rocker with a lived in feel, over which Sean emotes the priceless line: ‘I’m the Mayor of this god forsaken town.’
‘Always There’ is a slow burning ballad in search of a decent hook which at least focuses on his husky voice alongside a ripping solo. ‘Stay With Me’ is far better, as the big building ballad places his soulful voice right in the front of the mix, with the eventual guitar solo adding another layer rather than dominating the track.
The gentle melodic and radio friendly love song ‘I Still Remember’ is equally good, and benefits from the primacy of the voice.
And just when you think he’s slipped into one dirgy number too many, ‘Heart Still Bleeds’ explodes into life on a disguised funky arrangement that impressively builds towards a big concluding solo.
In many respects ‘Heart Still Bleeds’ embodies the conflicting tension at the heart of this album, particularly in the way it strives to strike a balance between Webster the balladeer and firebrand guitarist Wilson. Perhaps we should have paid more attention to the band name Sean Webster & The Deadlines.
It’s all there on Sean’s version of ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’, which starts out as a showcase for his voice but eventually gives way to another guitar solo. Much as I love Ash’s playing, the songs simply don’t have the variety of arrangements to accommodate both of them.
The brusque shuffle ‘Leave Me’ partially resolves the problem, allowing Sean to stretch out within a muscular arrangement that kicks from the start and finds a decent balance between vocalist and guitarist.
It’s back to the blues on the delicately spun ‘Hear Me Now’, on one of the best examples of Sean’s expressive phrasing and an altogether better arrangement, with layered guitars and intricate dynamics.
This track in particular should have been pushed further up the track order , as everything is in perfectly in synch, which isn’t always the case earlier on.
The bluesy title track ballad adds Richard Pustelnik’s sprightly horns, to nicely round of an album that has its moments but sometimes lacks a coherent direction. ***½
Review by Pete Feenstra
Pete Feenstra presents his Rock & Blues Show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Tuesday at 19:00 GMT, and “The Pete Feenstra Feature” on Sundays at 19:00
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