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Wendy Webb Wendy Webb
Album: Step Out Of Line
Label: Spooky Moon
Tracks: 10
Website: http://www.wendywebbmusic.com

I discovered the Iowa-born Webb last year, some way into her career, with the release of her fourth studio album, "This Is The Moment", and was instantly smitten with her evocation of the classic era of Laurel Canyon. The arrival of this, her latest, was, then to say the least, a moment of unexpected delight and one which doesn't disappoint.

Recorded at a house in Nashville and featuring such stellar musicians as guitarist David Grissom, pedal steel maestro Dan Dugmore, bassist David Pomeroy, drummer Ron Krasinski and Memphis Horns veteran Wayne Jackson on trumpet. It is, perhaps bluesier and with a jazzier feel in places than its predecessor, getting underway with the smoulderingly moody "Talk To Me", one of several hesitant love songs ("I know love can come with a cost, but you play your hand or you just lost"), the only track on which she's backed by the tight combo of Larry Chaney (guitar, Vince Santoro (drums), Dennis Markowski on keys (which at one point sound like a flute) and celebrated bassist Willie Weeks.

The title track, one of several co-written with producer Mark Keller, marks Jackson's contribution, his trumpet adding a late night urban noir feel to a song about taking not being locked into self-limiting proctrastination and taking chances by looking inside yourself to "go where you've never been, go down the road within."

The five-minute "Freedom" is another late night atmospheric groove, her voice soaring bluesily against a simple acoustic guitar pattern burnished by Grissom's electric notes and Mark Jordan on organ as she sings about not losing your soul, life and freedom to the dot com rat race. If you can hear Laura Nyro and Joni Mitchell, there is, on occasion, also a touch of Joan Baez about her vocals, particularly so on her steel and electric piano accompanied cover of Dylan's "Girl From The North Country", the folksiest track here. Interestingly, there's hints of vintage Broadway balladry to be heard on the yearningly sung love song "Destiny's Muse", Jim Horn providing early hours sax, a theatrical influence that also informs the warm and soulful "Mexico", essentially a musical travel brochure number for lovers about getting away from it all, unwinding and chilling out on the beach and hanging out with the locals.

Those familiar with her early work will recognise "Camden Town" ("Retro music in the street, leather on parade"), a revisiting from her "Moon Over Havana" album, given a lengthier playing time and fuller arrangement with organ and electric guitar bringing a funkier feel. "Magician Holiness" is a simpler affair, Webb again accompanying herself on electric piano on the album's most overtly political number as, addressing corporate culture and spin, she sings how "In the home of the brave, the pharaohs hire the slaves In the land of the free, the pharaohs choose what to see."

Sandwiching the Dylan cover at the end of the album, first comes the folksy acoustic picked "In The Night", another with Baez echoes, a love song with metaphorical overtones, featuring just Webb on guitar and David Hungate's acoustic bass. With double tracked vocals and just electric piano and cello, it closes with the hymnal quality of "Where Are We Going Now, My Love", an uplifting song of optimism in the face of the gathering storm and encroaching darkness, of escaping back to "the fields where we were born" and "the stream that met our thirst." It may not have been written with the spectre of a Trump presidency in mind, but it strikes a particularly timely and resonant note. There's a mellow, warm intimacy about the album that will wrap itself around you, invite it in and feel the glow

Mike Davies