Dan Webster

Devil Sky

(Paper Plane Records)



This songwriter is described as pretty much writing Americana-style material with a British twist…probably a ruse for a hack to suggest the pigeonhole him as Anglicana.

So it’s best to give his new collection a decent listen and give any comments thereafter..so that’s what I will do. Dan has some input from acquaintances on this outing – these include Emily Lawler on violin, Polly Bolton on mandolin, Rachel Brown cello, Mark Waters bass, Yom Hardy drums and Joshua Burnell on Keyboards. On the insert photo they would pass for a bunch of teachers at a demo waiting for the placards to arrive. There’s some electric guitar from Stuart Allan.

Playing Cards & Late Night Bars rides in on jaunty fiddle and slivers of banjo. Webster here delivers the lyric in an almost breathless manner. The drums and bass maintain a brisk tempo. It’s somewhat catchy and the electric guitar have a touch of Richard Thompson, appropriate in this context. Next up, Home Again is a gentle lament, solemn violin and a well-judged vocal. Bo turns out to be a father and son jolly outing, with instrumental forays and a hoedown pace. Dan’s voice is somewhere over the Atlantic, hovering between his English accent and his American acquired mannerisms and general slant.

Haul Away is reflective and rather beautiful, evoking a solitary riverside walk in ambience. Here, he forgets about trying to sound American. It’s one of the better inclusions and the female harmonies are impressive. Danni Nicholls, I believe.

Mary Anne has sombre start before settling into a steady tempo and a cool vocal delivery, the composition making me think that at some point Webster had a Jeff Buckley phase that has not entirely left him. On to Sand with sprightly mandolin and bouncy fiddle to the fore and a crisp setting from the rest of the band, with superb bass and Hammond on cruise control.

Freedom In Suburbia is a somewhat dreamy sneer of a song, Dan taking it very steadily and the harmonies clean and winsome. The chordal sequence has distant echoes of Nights In White Satin, a soft flange rolling in the mix. Nothing At All is decidedly folky, with melancholy violin giving a sepia tinge. The album title is referenced in the lyric, here. Gorgeous singing on this one. Next up Joe which has stately intro chording leading into a welcome story song, about the fate of an acquaintance. A murder mystery of sorts. Ian McEwan can be blamed for lots of things. Matters end with Anyway, a pastoral lament that has an almost lullaby ambience, something here in the arrangement is a tad restrained as though the act is tiptoeing away…

Well recorded folk-rock that is at its best eschewing Americanisms and just playing it straight. Too many dour songs for this listener, overall. But the empathy in the ensemble cannot fail to impress.

Pete Sargeant


(Thanks to James S)

You can watch the official video for 'Playing Cards & Late Night Bars' in this article.

Dan Webster's new album 'Devil Sky' is released on Friday 31st August 2018 on Paper Plane Records.

For tourdates and more information visit his official website here: http://bit.ly/2PDLYDl